Meet Foundry Victoria peer support worker Maude
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.
As Foundry Victoria’s peer support worker, 22-year-old Maude does whatever she can to help anyone who comes through its doors. Sometimes youth just want to catch up with a coffee and connect. Others need support as they wait to see a counsellor who might already be fully booked for the day. And others have no idea how to navigate the complicated health care system.
As well as supporting youth ages 12 to 24, Maude’s role also involves supporting parents. For Maude, part of her role is fighting the stigma around addiction and mental health. She sees confused parents who aren’t sure how to discuss difficult topics with their teens. Parents who say there’s no way their kid can be an addict. Their kid doesn’t look like an addict.
“What does an addict look like,” Maude might ask them. “Addiction affects everyone.”
And that’s when Maude would share her story.
How Foundry Victoria helped Maude
Since she was 15 years old, Maude struggled with depression and anxiety. To combat her mental health challenges, she turned to alcohol and drugs. And it quickly spiralled out of her control.
“I felt really hopeless and felt like I’d dug myself into this hole that I couldn’t get out,” says Maude. “That feeling grew over the years. I got more and more desperate to get out. I felt horrible because I’d pulled away from my family my friends. I was a shell of myself.”
For Maude, the Victoria Youth Clinic, lead agency for Foundry Victoria, was a constant. So when Maude realized she needed help and was ready to make a change, Foundry was there.
“When I finally decided to get clean, I came into the clinic and Lauren, the outreach worker I’d known since I was 15, was there. I just started crying and hugging her. I felt so safe coming back here,” says Maude. “They weren’t looking at me as a junkie. They weren’t looking at me as this scum who had been using. They were looking at me as a person.”
The team approach to care that Maude received at Victoria Youth Clinic and Foundry Victoria is integral to her feeling supported throughout her recovery process. When she returned to Foundry Victoria in January 2018, asking for help to get into treatment, she saw familiar, supportive faces. She experienced trusting doctors and received counselling. They helped get her into treatment and stayed in contact with her during her three months away.
“I think if Foundry hadn’t been there for me when I was ready, it’s hard to say whether or not I’d be sitting here today. There’s a chance I wouldn’t be.”
Maude’s important day-to-day work at Foundry Victoria
In November 2018, Maude was hired to work at Foundry Victoria as a peer support worker. Every day is different: some days she sees a few youth, some days she sees no one, and other days she meets with people non-stop. But what’s the same day in and day out is that Maude is working to support everyone she sees – in any way she can – speaking to them as a peer.
Maude helps clients find resources, whether that’s a food bank, a counsellor or a psychiatrist. And if the clinic can’t see the client that same day, Maude is a listening ear right then and there.
“I’m often that buffer. We are a clinic, and just like very other clinic in Victoria, we get full very fast! So if someone comes in…but they’re really desperate to get counselling or desperate to just get help for whatever, I’m there to support them.”
Currently, Maude also runs a drop-in group called the Youth Wellness Drop-In Group. Twice a week, Maude organizes these sessions where youth can come and talk about anything from self care to healthy relationships to setting boundaries, then play some games, make some food, and just hang out.
It’s easy to see why youth come to see her. She’s open and honest, funny and approachable. Simply, she makes talking about difficult things a little bit easier.
“I don’t claim to be an expert in addiction. I only know my own story, my own experience, and what it was like for me going through the trials and tribulations of being a teenager,” says Maude. “I can only offer my support. I can’t be their counsellor or their doctor, but I can be their peer. And that is at the essence of my role. I get it. I’m here to help.”
Foundry Victoria is a space downtown Victoria for young people ages 12 to 24 who can receive a range of services including physical and mental health care, substance use supports, social services, and peer support.
To support youth and their families with mental health and substance use issues through Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, including places like Foundry Victoria, make a gift to the Innovation in Mental Health Fund today.