Focused on a Brighter Future
Ashley’s teenage years left her feeling lost and uncertain. Until age 15, she was an honour roll student, an enthusiastic artist, writer and classically trained pianist. Then, intense struggles with anxiety, depression and an eating disorder stripped her of her self-esteem, direction and hope for the future.
Her parents tried to provide her with whatever help she needed, ensuring she received treatment at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Eating Disorders Clinic and additional therapy with private psychologists. Unfortunately, Ashley’s struggles continued, “I felt immune to therapy, like nothing could help me.”
After high school graduation, she tried to turn her life around, initially moving to Lethbridge for her first year of university. However, becoming overwhelmed by an intense relapse, she returned to Calgary, but continued to spiral downward. She stopped going to classes, relapsed into her eating disorder, and isolated herself from her loved ones.
Where Your Money Goes
Emerging Adult Mental Health
As Calgarians rallied to create a new Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health, the need to support an equally vulnerable Emerging Adult population became evident and urgent.Learn More
By December of her fourth year, she felt she was beyond hope, and did not deserve to live. After a distressing panic attack, her family rushed her to the Rockyview General Hospital where she was treated in a crisis unit. It was here where she was referred to the Emerging Adults Clinic on Richmond Road. It promised help from a small team of therapists specializing in aiding young people aged 16-24.
“I felt safe and understood by my counsellors,” says Ashley. “I used to worry people would see me as a failure, as selfish, so I got very good at keeping a façade to stave off questions. But these counsellors saw through my mask and challenged the harmful worldview I had developed.”
Ashley believes it’s imperative that more people her age have access to specialized programs designed for Emerging Adults sooner.
“Once you turn 18, people presume you’re an adult,” she says. “I felt pressure to figure out my life and I was overwhelmed. My counsellors were warm and kind and I felt I could open myself to them. They didn’t focus on the labels of my conditions or new diagnoses. They worked together with me to identify underlying problems, and then gave me the tools through which I could tackle my issues.”
Today, Ashley believes that the hard work to understand the root of her feelings has set her up for her future. She is on track to finish her English degree at the University of Calgary this fall. In the meantime, she is working in a bakery and once more enjoying creative outlets like sketching, textile work and writing.
As Calgarians rallied to create a new Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health, the need to support an equally vulnerable Emerging Adult population became evident and urgent. Sobering facts and community concern heightened by the fallout of Covid-19 have compelled the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation to support an integrated clinical and research mental health initiative focused on helping 16- to 24-year-olds. Jointly led by Alberta Health Services and the University of Calgary, this new venture will bring together clinicians and researchers with expertise in child, adolescent and adult psychiatry, psychology, social work and adolescent medicine to address significant global gaps in knowledge and services. With your help, AHS and UCalgary will transform the existing health care model to better support young people who are falling between the cracks of the pediatric and adult mental health care systems. Learn more.