For a young person suffering with mental illness, the hospital can be a difficult place. But now, thanks to the generosity of a local mother, the Adolescent Psychiatric Unit at Kelowna General Hospital is a little brighter.
On June 26, 2017, Elizabeth Koersen’s son, Robert, chose to take his own life at the age of 26 after a long, painful struggle with mental illness. Since then, the Kelowna mother has been waiting for the right project to honour his life, one characterized by selfless acts of service, in an uplifting and positive way, according to KGH news release.
Upon graduating from Okanagan Mission Secondary in 2009, Robert enlisted in the armed forces and later became an emergency medical responder. He was active with the International Peshmerga volunteers, a team of veterans providing training and mentoring services to the Kurdish people in Iraq. Drawn to being of service, Robert selflessly made his way to the other side of the globe to offer hope, moral support and medical aid to the soldiers on the frontlines, the release said.
When Koersen learned of the APU clinical teams desire to transform the unit’s existing outdoor courtyard to be more welcoming and hopeful for their young patients, she knew she wanted to help. In Robert’s honour, she gifted $20,000 to the KGH Foundation to fund the revitalization of the courtyard and commission an artist to paint the walls in a mural inspired by her son’s love of nature and wildlife.
“Robert spent some time at KGH,” said Koersen. “Even though he can no longer be with us, his beautiful way of uplifting others remains. I’m proud of him. And I know he would have loved what we’ve made possible for young people who are struggling.”
“The transformation is really unbelievable,” said Colleen McEwan, manager of the APU. “Our patients are going through a lot. To be able to come outside and just sit in this beautiful space, see the sunshine… it’s a really special gift for these kids.”
If you are considering suicide, or if you are worried about someone who may be, call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) for free, 24/7, confidential support, or go to your nearest hospital.