Young Adult Mental Health Unit established at Royal Jubilee Hospital

A new Young Adult Mental Health Unit at Royal Jubilee Hospital is providing specialized and age-appropriate care for young adults experiencing acute mental health challenges.

In response to a growing number of younger people experiencing significant mental health episodes needing hospital-based care, Island Health began to reconfigure an existing general psychiatry unit that served all ages to focus on specialized mental health care for youth. The reconfigured, 16 bed unit opened November 20, 2023, in a phased manner which allowed existing patients to complete their hospital stays.

“There’s nothing more important than helping young people recover and rebuild after a mental health challenge or crisis,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “This new unit at Royal Jubilee Hospital will help ensure we provide integrated, holistic services that meet the needs of young adults on Vancouver Island. This is one more tool we are using to ensure that young people can get the care they need, where and when they need it.”

This unit’s new focus will improve services for young adults through the expansion of an interdisciplinary team of staff which includes counsellors, peer supports and mental health workers and provide a key service improvement for young people living with mental health challenges on the South Island.

The Young Adult Mental Health Unit offers therapeutic programs which provide care and support recovery goals. New group programming focuses on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, Relaxation Movement and other services.

“In addition to providing evidence-based programming for younger people experiencing mental health challenges, Island Health has transformed the physical space on the unit with the goal to create a more inviting environment for patients and families,” said Leah Hollins, Island Health Board Chair. “This includes calming, scenic Vancouver Island murals, updated furniture, a family conference room, exercise equipment and Indigenous art created by Lon French.”

The purpose of the reconfigured unit is to stabilize young adults during an acute mental health episode, provide group programming supporting psychoeducation and skill building, and engage patients and their families in treatment and eventual transition from hospital care to community reintegration.

Royal Jubilee Hospital has a total of 58 inpatient psychiatry beds, including 10 psychiatric intensive care beds. Prior to reconfiguring the Young Adult Mental Health Unit, analysis of bed utilization over several years showed people aged 17-26 could be grouped in a single space without negatively impacting on overall access to inpatient psychiatry beds for those over age 26.

“When our daughter, Kelsey, was admitted to 1South in 2017 it was solely an adult unit,” said Jill Duggan, a patient partner and mother of a young woman who struggled with mental health challenges. “Kelsey was so vulnerable and at 17 she was not an adult. She had just been transferred from ICU where she had been on life support after her second suicide attempt. She was terrified upon her arrival. Although she received good care, it wasn’t the best place for Kels. She was discharged with a solid sounding care plan but that soon fell apart due to capacity issues and lack of communication between services. We were struggling, and Kelsey eventually lost her mental health battle in 2020.”

Jill added: “I became a patient caregiver partner with Island Health soon after we lost our girl, trying my best to help fill the gaps that Kelsey fell into. I am so grateful to witness the progress in patient care in Island Health. I know that Kelsey would be pleased that there is a young adult mental health unit now, a place supported by people who are committed to providing a safe and comfortable environment. A spot where young people like her can rest and heal. She would especially be thrilled about the therapy dogs!”

Admission to the Young Adult Mental Health Unit is based on physician assessment and referral. Patients must be between the ages of 17-26 years and experiencing a first and/or active episode of psychosis or mood disorder or having an exacerbation of an existing psychotic or mood disorder. Patients must also be deemed to be able to benefit from specialized assessment and recovery-focused programming to facilitate successful reintegration into the community, have the ability to engage in structured programming and be medically stable.

What people are saying about the Young Adult Mental Health Unit at Royal Jubilee Hospital

Grace Lore, Minister of Children and Family Development –

“When youth and young adults experience a mental health crisis, they need access to wraparound supports and care specifically designed for people their age. This important change at Royal Jubilee Hospital helps us better meet their needs with an interdisciplinary team to support their mental health care and recovery goals.”

Murray Rankin, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head –

“We are continuing to add tools to our toolbox so we can better respond to the needs of young people in our community. This specialized unit at Royal Jubilee Hospital addresses a vital need to provide focused mental health care for youth in Victoria and the South Island.”

Dr. Hendri Eksteen, Acute Medical Director, Psychiatry, Royal Jubilee Hospital – 

“Recovery is a unique individual experience, and unit staff will collaboratively work with patients and families to help build resilience and skills. By focusing on early intervention, we will foster community connection and inspire the hope needed to overcome challenges, stabilize acute health needs and support transition to the community for further care and recovery.”