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Inside Out – You Are Not Alone: Youth Mental Health During COVID-19

by Whitney Welsh, Youth Action Coordinator, and the Youth Action Team at Shoreline Medical

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdown in early 2020, the Youth Action Team at the Saanich Peninsula Youth Health Clinic has continued to meet. We are a team of young volunteers in the Sidney region who meet weekly to discuss the health needs of young people in our communities. We work together to promote wellness, connect youth to resources, and spread the word that everyone is deserving of support, no matter what issue they are facing.

As we adjusted to life during lockdowns, we had many conversations about the impacts of Covid on the mental health of ourselves and our peers. Prior to the beginning of the pandemic, youth mental health was already a major topic of discussion amongst our group, and something that our clinic has worked hard to address.

We decided to bring this discussion to a larger group. Using social media, we promoted a survey about mental health and wellness to youth on the Saanich Peninsula. We received an impressive response from youth as young as 12 and up to 24. While many of the things we learned from the survey were no surprise, it was comforting to see that global events have touched everyone, and we are all looking for ways to stay supported.

We found that, while over 90% of youth who participated in our survey have considered reaching out for support with their mental health, many hesitate due to fear of judgement, worries that their concerns will be dismissed or diminished, or struggles with what it means to admit that something is wrong.

Many young people shared that they have felt isolated. Anxiety has increased, especially when it comes to navigating social situations that now feel unfamiliar. We feel a sense of grief when we think about the major life events we’ve missed out on. We struggle with ways that our bodies have changed during isolation and worry about what people will say or think.

We learned that many youth – over 95% – take on the responsibility of supporting friends. While it is important to care for our loved ones, it is also important to ask for the help. We learned about the many creative and resourceful ways in which youth tend to their own mental health, but we also know that sometimes we need someone trustworthy and kind to talk to.

If you or someone you know needs help, counseling is available at the Saanich Peninsula Youth Health Clinic. We are open every Thursday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Our clinic is open to anyone 12 to 24. We offer medical appointments as well. Every service at our clinic is free of charge and confidential – your privacy and ability to speak openly about your health and wellness is a priority.

No one deserves to struggle alone, and sometimes we all need help. You are not alone. Give us a call on Thursday evenings at 250-656 4143.


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Ryan Liebscher

family physician

Dr Ryan Liebscher grew up and lived in Victoria before moving out east to pursue undergraduate work in microbiology in Halifax. He went on to medical school at the University of Saskatchewan where he met his wife and endured a few cold winters. They went on to Prince George to complete residency training in Family Medicine and then Ryan undertook a year of added competency training in palliative care through UBC. 

They settled on the Peninsula in 2009 to start a family. After completing his training, he worked as a locum in family practice and as a Palliative Care physician at Victoria Hospice for 4 years until settling into his own family practice in Brentwood Bay in 2014. He continues to work with the Saanich Peninsula palliative care consultation team and feels very strongly about supporting a palliative approach to care for patients in need. His other interests include meditation, Tai Chi, mindfulness, and active healthy living.

He feels grateful to work with Shoreline Medical and the wonderful team here at Brentwood Bay.

Andrew Kwasnica

family physician

Dr. Andrew Kwasnica grew up in Cordova Bay and is delighted to be able to practice medicine on the Saanich Peninsula. He has a strong interest in preventive medicine and personal health management, and invites his patients to engage fully and take charge of their own health, through careful attention to risk reduction, diet and exercise, weight management, and judicious use of pharmacologic and interventional approaches to medical conditions. His other areas of focus include internal medicine, palliative care and mental health. He is a self-professed exercise and nutrition fanatic (and dog lover), and you’ll find him on the courts, trails and slopes with his young family.

“An apple a day does not keep the doctor away, but it does improve your colonic health!”
– Dr. Kwasnica

Andrea Lewis

family physician & board member, Shoreline Sidney

Dr Andrea Lewis was born and raised in Vancouver. She spent many years at UBC, but still found time to satisfy her enthusiasm for adventure with travels to Africa and Australia. Her love of the outdoors enticed her to Newfoundland where she completed her Residency in Family Medicine and where she met her husband. Together they have raised 2 beautiful daughters and in 2014, they spent 6 months in Vanuatu providing medical care to the populace of the remote tropical Island. 

Dr Lewis has been involved in the establishment of the South Island Division of Family Practice and the Shoreline Medical Society, both of which have been very rewarding processes. She feels honoured to act as the Medical Director of Shoreline Medical Sidney and looks forward to being a part of the development of a new approach to Family Medicine.  

Sienna Bourdon

Dr. Sienna Bourdon grew up on Vancouver Island in Black Creek. She received an undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from UVic and a Medical Degree from UBC’s Island Medical Program. After completing her Family Medicine (CCFP)  training through Western University, Dr. Bourdon worked 1 year in Ontario doing inpatient hospital care, clinics, teaching and family practice locums. She moved back home to BC in the fall of 2014 and set up her own practice at Bayside Medical Centre in May 2015. Since that time she has been doing Family Medicine, walk in clinic, inpatient care and Emergency Medicine shifts at SPH. She is also very involved in leadership in the community and at the hospital. She has a keen interest in teaching and has a faculty appointment at UBC.
Dr. Bourdon is excited to be moving her practice to Shoreline Medical, Brentwood Bay. She places an emphasis on preventative medicine, optimizing the lifestyles of her patients to maintain health and prevent disease. Dr. Bourdon practices full-service, comprehensive Family Medicine, offering a wide range of services, and expects her patients to be active participants in managing their health.
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