Cecily’s story of resilience and the importance of a place like Foundry


[Please note: This story contains content that may not be suitable for all audiences, including people who have experienced traumatic events from mental health or substance use challenges or for younger audiences.]

If you were to meet Cecily Killam today, you’d see she is a happy, calm, intelligent, and confident 25-year-old woman. You’d be hard pressed to believe she’s been through decades of struggle and suffering, endured physical and mental abuse, substance use, and a multitude of mental health diagnoses.

“I always thought ‘it’s terrible, I’m never going to be that kind of teenager’ but when the opportunity presented itself and there was no one telling me ‘don’t do these drugs, this is a bad example’… it was something to do. For me, it was a reason to not go home.”

All Cecily wanted was to be a normal kid, a good kid, but her home life was far from normal. She experienced a dysfunctional family life and physical abuse. Having no sense of security at home, she left and started roving between turnaround beds and the street, which is where she continued to use. Cecily would return home on occasion, only to realize she was inserting herself back in to the same cycle of abuse.

Cecily ended up signing a youth agreement, which meant her parents were still legal guardians but she was in the care of the ministry. She was provided housing, but there were no mental health supports. She fell into a deep depression.

Cecily then had a mental health episode that went unmanaged, and was unable to cope with the overwhelming feelings of depression and anxiety. One night, she nearly took her own life.

She survived and was released from the hospital on the condition that she would not attempt taking her life again. Cecily explains how there were no follow up services or supports.

Out of her own strength and resiliency, Cecily returned to school where she kept good grades, was focused, and even got involved in many extracurricular activities, but that all came crashing down February of her final year. She turned 19. Cecily was cut off from ministry support and had to pack up her things, drop out of school, and move to Rock Bay Landing.

“I felt so defeated having to drop out of school. So I was sitting in this shelter thinking, what am I doing to do now? How am I supposed to do this?”

She found new support in Vancouver and moved there to access mental health services and a psychiatrist, and for the first time she was monitored while on medication.

Cecily then took a break from the city and met friends in the Okanagan, when she relapsed and had a psychotic break. Once this happened, she received treatment from an outpatient detox facility back in Vancouver, saw a drug and alcohol counsellor, and received primary care at Foundry.

The importance of a place like Foundry

It took several more years, and an unprecedented amount of endurance for Cecily to get to where she is now. She was introduced to Foundry in Vancouver only after much of the turmoil in her life had passed, and now sees how important it is for young people to have these supports early on.

“There’s no other service like it… that one stop shop. It meets the need for immediacy for those young people who have complex care needs.”

Now, at age 25, she says most things in her life have stabilized. She’s in recovery and in a healthy relationship. This new chapter of Cecily’s life filled with hope, stability, and reflection has also allowed her to have a sympathetic view of her parents.

“They did the best they could given their circumstances and own experiences that they’re still dealing with. It took me years to recognize that these are other human beings that may have contributed to their inability to be effective and emotionally intelligent parents.

I was really, really angry for a long time and have only come to terms with everything in the past couple of years. There is a silver lining and positive outcome, and I’m pretty fortunate that I have these resiliency skills that have followed me through these experiences and was able to overcome a lot of stuff.”

Many young people still need support. We know 1 in 5 youth on Vancouver Island is living with mental health or substance use issues, yet as few as 20% are getting access to the services they need.

Thanks in part to our generous donors, Foundry Victoria officially opened its doors this past year. It’s a space for young people ages 12 to 24 with a wide range of services all under one roof, including physical and mental health care, substance use supports, social services, and peer support.

Thanks to our generous donors, we can support Island youth like Cecily. Consider making a donation today.