Chronicle Herald: Owens family matching all donations to critical mental health care project

A bright, modern seclusion room featuring a bed, book shelf and more.

Originally published by the Chronicle Herald. The IWK’s Garron Centre inpatient rooms serve as one inspiration and example of what the redesigned QEII's Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites could look like. This transformation will only be possible with QEII Foundation donor support.

As an interior designer, creating comfortable, calming spaces is always on Natalie Owens’ mind.

When she and her brother, Jonathan, were invited to tour the QEII Health Sciences Centre’s current Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites at the Halifax Infirmary, she realized her family’s donation to the suites’ redesign could play an important role in enhancing mental health care for Nova Scotians.

It inspired the Owens family to commit a matching gift to the inspiring project. Until March 31, they’re doubling all donations to the QEII Foundation, in support of the QEII’s Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites transformation, up to $25,000.

“We’re excited to work with the QEII Foundation donor community to transform the space into a warm, comforting environment for people in crisis who are seeking help,” she says.

Each month, between 200 and 250 people come to the QEII’s Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites seeking mental health care. From untreated anxiety, to suicidal thoughts and behaviour, to psychosis and bipolar disorder, the suites accommodate people with any and all mental health concerns.

The current suites have been long overdue for an upgrade. Once considered state-of-the-art, this essential space has deteriorated after years of heavy use. The drywall is damaged, furniture is worn out, and bright, glaring, fluorescent lights often make psychiatric symptoms worse.

“Those who come to these suites are in distress, and although the suites aren’t the most welcoming right now, patients will still receive the care they need. But with donor support, this fundraising campaign will help us do better and create a leading-edge, therapeutic space that maybe a family member or friend will benefit from,” says Dr. Vincent Agyapong, Central Zone Chief of Psychiatry, Nova Scotia Health, and Department Head of Psychiatry at Dalhousie University.

The redesign of the QEII’s Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites is part of the QEII Foundation’s $100-million We Are campaign – and is just one component of how the Foundation is working to transform care at the QEII. With donors leading the way, funds raised for the suites redesign will completely transform the current mental health treatment area – which includes three treatment rooms, an isolation room and a nurses’ station. QEII Foundation donors will help fund new dimmable lighting, reinforced walls painted in calming colours, properly designed, weighted furniture that is safe yet welcoming, and much more.

The soon-to-be-designed suites have been planned through a lens of healing, comfort and safety. “Our aim is for these to enhance the patients’ therapeutic experience,” says Dr. Agyapong.

Once complete, the QEII’s Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites will help build trust with people who are taking their first steps to seek treatment for their mental health, and offer a more modern, essential resource to our community.

“These suites are where people in crisis can begin their healing,” says Natalie. “If you look around your immediate circle of family and friends, mental illness can touch any of us. Our family’s hope is that our support will help transform these suites into the comfortable, secure space it’s meant to be for people in need of professional care, as well as for the healthcare professionals who work there.”

Dr. Agyapong says the province’s Mental Health and Addictions teams are incredibly inspired by the Owens family and their generous support of the initiative. He encourages the community to consider the life-changing impact they too can have within the QEII’s Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites.

“Supporting this project will be one of the best investments you could ever make,” he says. “There’s no better investment than the one you make in other people, in particular, providing access to quality mental health services. There’s no greater satisfaction than to be able to positively impact the lives of other people who are all around us.”

This month only, your donation to the QEII’s Psychiatric Emergency Care Suites will be doubled, up to $25,000, by the Owens family. To learn more or donate by March 31, visit or call 902-334-1546.