Brandi Carlow (second from right) is the friendly face of the Chilliwack Youth Health Centre, and is still the point person now that their services have been moved into a virtual space to be safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted photo)

Chilliwack’s youth health clinic staying open thanks to virtual visits

Health professionals still available for youth in a digital realm during COVID-19 pandemic

If youth need someone to talk to, there’s still a place to turn.

The Chilliwack Youth Health Centre (CYHC) has been providing free, walk-in care at a growing number of locations around town. It’s known as a friendly place filled with friendly faces, and they are promising that won’t change as they work to keep themselves and their clients safe.

They are trying to get the word out that the centre has moved all of its operations into a virtual space, and will have the same hours and intake process. It all will just be virtual as long as social distancing is required to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re open, we’re here and it’s nearly the same process,” says program manager Brandi Carlow. “It’s not in person but it’s still me. It’s not a stranger.”

With everyone being homebound, the CYHC will provide both its health and mental health help via phone, email and internet video/voice. In this time of social isolation it may be even more important for young people to have a place to vent and express what is going on for them, Carlow explains.

As always, the services are available to anyone aged 12 to 26, are confidential, and don’t require a referral.

Social connections are “extremely important” to youth, she adds, and school is a big part of that.

In order to keep the virtual visits as simple as possible, they are using platforms that don’t require clients to create accounts. She has been happy to see care providers all over Chilliwack working to connect with their clients in meaningful, creative ways.

For example, family doctors are now visiting clients via phone.

The CYHC has become an important part of the health care puzzle in Chilliwack. It was created by 10 agencies who came together to offer what they had as resources, back in January 2015.

READ MORE: Students in the Fraser East work hard, need more mental health support

The CYHC grew rapidly and went from one site at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre adjoining Chilliwack Secondary to four sites: Stolo Health, Tzeachten First Nation and the University of the Fraser Valley, Chilliwack Campus. From its small beginnings, until the COVID 19 crisis hit, it was having an average of 60 counselling sessions a week.

And now, Chilliwack’s youth may need to reach out more than ever. And Carlow underlines that using their services shouldn’t be stigmatized, and it’s natural to want to connect.

“Sometimes it’s just to talk and say ‘right now this feels really weird,’” she says.

As a potential bonus, she notes, the fact that parents may be isolated with their teens or young adults means they may gain new insight into how their children cope with this kind of situation.

“Parents are now home with their kids and they might actually see a reason to help connect their youth,” she says.

Chilliwack Youth Health Centre has a Facebook page with all relevant details.

Medical clients will be ‘seen’ on a first-come, first-served basis, by first emailing chilliwackyhc@divisionsbc.ca. The services are available from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Counselling clients will be ‘seen’ in the same manner, but from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays, and 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursdays.

Alternatively, clients can text 604-819-4603 and wait for a response from a team member.

Activities to stay healthy

While the restrictions on where we can go and what we can do may seem daunting, there is still plenty that can be done.

The CYHC suggests a few activities to stay busy during this self-isolation time. And that includes going outside (practising social distancing), for a walk, hike, bike or run, reading, painting or drawing, watching movies, calling a friend or family member on the phone or through video calling. They also suggest puzzles, board games, baking, journaling, hanging out more with pets, cleaning up, and trying breathing exercises, yoga and even listing off things you are thankful for.

READ MORE: COLUMN: Parents need to get informed about mental health illnesses


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