AJ's Story: Finding home again

January 29, 2020 | By: United Way Waterloo Region Communities

United Way-funded programs helped AJ when he left home as a teen. Now, he’s reconnected with his family, thinking about school, and helping other young people.

“I should have been successful, but I wasn’t.” – AJ

AJ was a talented youth enrolled in a gifted program at school. But his struggles with mental health led to him dropping out in Grade 10. 

“I got into shouting matches with my teachers,” says AJ, who was diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) at an early age. “Things like that happened a lot. Teachers were constantly telling me to leave. Eventually, I did — I’m a high school dropout.”

AJ’s diagnosis of OCD led to other diagnoses, such as generalized anxiety and depression, and these challenges impacted every area of his life. 

He had difficulty holding down a job. He didn’t have much of a social life. And though he loved his parents and they tried to help, AJ’s relationship with them was strained. By the time he was 18, he was cycling in and out of hospitals and homeless shelters and didn’t want to go home. 

Eventually, AJ was connected with a program supported by United Way. It helped him access a range of services, including counselling, housing, peer support, and skill development. The result? “That made me feel more hopeful about my future,” says AJ.

Today, AJ continues to work with his social worker on what might be next for him, including the possibility of finding work and going back to school. He also volunteers as a peer support worker at the agency. “It really helps me to be able to help others,” he says.

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For more information about United Way Waterloo Region Communities and how you can support our community, please visit www.uwaywrc.ca, call us at 519-888-6100, or email info@uwaywrc.ca.

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