By: Aslam (he/they) & Lee (she/they) – Provincial Youth Advisors, writers with Foundry BC
It’s July 2019 and the sun is beaming in Aslam’s life. They’ve just graduated and like many others, have hopes for a bright future in the big city – being openly queer and comfortable, making new friends, and being immersed in the multicultural downtown square.
One year later, when COVID-19 became a global pandemic, the isolation caused their mental health to worsen and along with it, a rising battle with substance use, making it near impossible for Aslam to access resources.
“At first, I wasn’t even aware that I was at my worst,” Aslam recalls. “I was so used to my routine: wake up, still feeling numb and empty, pack a bowl and take a couple of tokes out of my bedroom window, then go back to sleep. It was intense denial and numbing.”
Last summer, Aslam gained the courage to reach out and receive help for their substance use and mental health challenges. They went to Foundry, an integrated youth service that provides mental health care, substance use services, physical and sexual health care, youth and family peer support and social services for young people ages 12-24 and their families/caregivers across BC.
“I was struggling my whole life and thought that self-medicating with drugs and alcohol was easier than speaking about what I had gone through,” says Aslam. Over the last couple of months, they also worked with doctors and peer support workers to begin taking medications, speaking to a physician regularly and learning harm reduction strategies.
Similarly, Lee, a Foundry provincial youth advisor alongside Aslam, also experienced worsening mental health during the pandemic. As Foundry provincial youth advisors, both Aslam and Lee share their perspectives to make Foundry services youth-friendly and inclusive to others.
“Foundry is different from a lot of other places—it’s a community shaped by youth with diverse, living experiences,” Lee shares. “To those of you who feel isolated or lonely – know that you are not alone. I felt stuck for a long time and with help, I realized the way I had been living was not the path I had to follow.”
“When I went to Foundry, I was accepted,” says Aslam. “I didn’t need to explain why I made the choices I did because they already knew why, and they didn’t care. They just wanted me to feel supported and loved.”
At Foundry, no problem is too small or too big. Young people can walk into a local Foundry centre, explore online tools and resources at foundrybc.ca, or connect virtually through the Foundry BC app.
To learn more, visit foundrybc.ca/youmatter.