Ali Hedberg said that her struggles with mental health issues began at a young age.
"I was 10 years old the first time I thought I was going to die," said Hedberg, now a peer support worker at Foundry Sea to Sky. "At 10 years old, I convinced myself that I was having a heart attack in the bathroom of my elementary school. No one ever told me that a panic attack could make you feel like your heart is going to crawl out of your chest."
Hedberg said these challenges led her to stop going to school when she was 12. It was very hard for her to find resources to assist her with mental health issues. On top of that, by the time she found a good connection for help, she'd aged out of the youth mental health system.
"I felt as if neither side wanted me. I was no longer a child but still not an adult. This was the scariest time of my life," she recalled.
Her remarks were made at the opening ceremony of Foundry Sea to Sky on March 31.
It's the hope of many that with the help of the new Foundry centre in Squamish, local youth will not have to relive Hedberg's situation.
Foundry Sea to Sky, located at 38646 Buckley Ave., resides on the bottom floor of the Spirit Creek affordable housing complex, formerly known as the Buckley affordable housing project.
The centre is focused on providing support for youth aged 12 to 24 facing challenges with mental health and addictions.
Indigenous youth from the Sea to Sky opened the event with a ceremonial song.
Afterwards, B.C.'s minister of mental health and addictions, Jennifer Whiteside, was present to give remarks on behalf of the province.
Whiteside said the centre would allow youth and their families to access supportive mental health, addictions and wellness programs. She said it was a place for people to build a sense of community and belonging.
"I think we heard it from Ali directly about the seamless nature of the way that Foundries are intended to work — a place where you can go that is really barrier-free," said Whiteside.
"I think that would be the first thing that I think we've already seen since October, because staff has been providing services since October. Foundry is really a model that is about meeting kids where they're at."
When asked whether the province has plans to provide further support to Squamish to address the toxic drug supply crisis, Whiteside said that the province is pouring money into the problem.
"Our government invested a billion dollars in our 23-24 budget to stand up for services, treatment services, detox services, [those] important sort of stabilization and withdrawal management services that we know are needed in many communities across the province," she said.
However, Whiteside did not specify how much of that money would make its way to Squamish.
Jaye Russell, the executive director of Sea to Sky Community Services, was there to express gratitude for many of the community partnerships that made this initiative happen.
Sea to Sky Community Services operates the Spirit Creek facility.
"This is an incredible milestone for our team and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to witness this incredible day," Russell said.