Growing up, Harry Holman learned the value of a youth centre only after it was too late.
In high school, despite being surrounded by his peers and loving family, Holman, now 24, and who has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) felt very much alone.
“That’s the scariest part about mental health issues is the feeling that no one else can understand what you’re going through and all hope is gone, that’s the worst thing,” said Holman who was diagnosed five years ago. “In the whole of high school I never talked about it, my close friends would poke fun but I never wanted people to know what I was actually like. I got to a point where you know what? Everyone’s different, everyone’s born different and has got things going on so who cares…”
OCD is a common, chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviours (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over.
So, like many others in the community, Holman feels very strongly about the need to make the Youth Resource Centre through the Youth Engagement Strategy (YES) a reality.
“Having a place where people can go to where there are like-minded people to get resources — almost a safe haven if you will — because I don’t know too many other places in Penticton that can really offer the same kind of resources to youth along those lines,” said Holman, who regularly goes to schools and other venues to talk to youth about mental illness. “So anything that can be done that promotes community and a place to go if you do feel alone or lost hope, just to have another outlet I think is a pretty special thing.”
The good news, according to YES project coordinator Amberlee Erdmann, is that construction of such a facility is expected to begin this year.
“We have a significant number of pledges and support from the community that giving us confidence that we will start the construction process in the summer of 2017,” said Erdmann. “The YES Project is currently accepting donations for the youth centre through the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen and we will be launching a fundraising campaign in the next few months.”
The seriousness of the need for such a centre really came to the forefront in recent years and particularly in 2016 according to Holman.
“I got into trying to get that youth centre last year when we had that string of suicides, a couple of 13-year-olds and a couple of other attempted,” said Holman.
“The South Okanagan was almost deemed a cluster suicide area and that’s pretty scary. I’m not too sure why whether it’s because one person goes ahead and they can’t see anyway out end up dying by depression and maybe other kids see it as a way out and do the same thing. Well if he did it, why can’t I?
“I think a lot of these kids are just falling through the cracks with nowhere to go and I think a centre will literally and figuratively be a life saver. Either way, just having some place they can go when they feel there is nowhere to turn.”
The YES group is working closely with 20 service providers to address the issue and build the facility at a location to be announced in the next few months.
“The system is complex and can sometimes be hard to navigate for youth and their families,” said Erdmann. “A key purpose of the youth centre is to facilitate communication between service providers to provide more coordinated and comprehensive care for youth.
“Sadly our community has been faced with youth suicides over the past few years. Losing one youth to suicide is one too many.”