"Students relate to others who have struggled and appreciate knowing that they are not alone. It helps them open up and ask for help and support." — Alex
For as long as he can remember, Alex has struggled with his mental health. In and out of counselling since he was five years old, he had lost faith in counsellors and didn’t believe he was worthy.
“I was heavily bullied at school when I was young,” said the likeable young man. “I couldn’t handle the crowded classes. Eventually, I started to harm myself and even attempted to take my life. I hit rock bottom and something had to change.”
Alex was surprised when he first met his Lutherwood counsellor. “She was different – she listened. We began to meet twice a week, sometimes we talked and sometimes we just sat quietly. Once I realized that she truly cared, I began to trust and open up to her.”
At age 15, Alex enrolled at Lutherwood’s STEPS program which offers youth who are experiencing significant emotional difficulties, therapy and life skills training in a supportive school environment. “I did not want to be there,” recalls Alex of his first day. “But the staff were fantastic. I yelled and swore at them and they just calmed me down and worked with me.” While at the school, Alex learned how to manage stress by listening to music, talking to his husky Neeley, and writing in his journal. Previously he only knew to call his grandma day or night when things felt overwhelming.
Eventually, his counsellor encouraged him to apply for a job at New York Fries. However, due to his social anxiety, the long customer lines felt overwhelming. With the help of his “wonderfully supportive manager,” he learned to focus on one customer at a time. Even on Boxing Day, when he was very concerned the crowds would overwhelm him, he worked a shortened shift because he did not want to let his manager and team down. Today, two years into the job, Alex is the Assistant Manager and trains new employee
In 2016, Alex joined a local chapter of the New Mentality. He liked the idea of youth encouraging youth who are struggling with their mental health to reach out for support. Today, he speaks in front of school groups and even dyed his hair green (the colour representing mental health) to show support for mental health awareness.
Inspired by his counsellor, Alex sees a future for himself in social work. “I have always loved helping people. It is not just what I want to do; it is what I am determined to do.”