Alberta’s children and youth at risk of serious mental health issues will soon have a new place to turn to get the support they need before they fall into a crisis situation.

A new facility will be built in northwest Calgary through a partnership between the Alberta Health Services and Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation.

The Centre for Child & Adolescent Mental Health, in the community of Hounsfield Heights, will include a mental health walk-in service, intensive outpatient therapy and a day hospital program.

It will be next to the existing Youth Addictions Services building and will help supplement the services provided there.

Julia Caddy, a psychology student at McGill University and patient ambassador for the project, knows the new centre will help a lot of youth, especially given her own experience.

“Five years ago, I was a very different person. I was very empty and lost and did not remember what it felt like to have a hope and that brought me here to the hospital. I got the help I needed but, eventually over the years I’ve met so many people who have yet to get the help they need.”

Caddy said that her issues weren’t that easy to detect.

“That can be the scariest part; you don’t always know what’s happening until it’s too late. Luckily, I had friends and family I was close to so they had an idea of what was going on. But with my eating disorder for example, I wasn’t diagnosed with that until I was in the hospital because eating disorders and other mental problems too a big part of it can be keeping it secret.”

She says that she was one of the lucky ones because she got treatment and it worked, but she wants to make sure that other people that she knows can get support too.

“I know there are so many people that I never hear about that are still struggling and for some, they’ll never get the help they need and that’s not okay.”

Caddy says the centre will help most because it can be there for children and youth before they get to a crisis situation.

“Too often these days, the help doesn’t come until someone is in harm’s way or has made an attempt on their life. With this centre, we can give youth an option before they get to that point. No youth should have to get to that point and it’s so much easier to treat the issue earlier both in preventative matters and getting to the youth while they can still advocate for themselves and aren’t totally overwhelmed by what’s going on.”

Construction on the multi-million dollar centre will begin in fall 2019 and it’s expected to be completed in 2020.

(With files from Brad MacLeod)