September 26, 2019
If you met Justin today, you wouldn’t be able to picture him as anything but the twenty-year-old chatty guy with a warm smiley face. But it wasn’t that long ago that Justin refused to even answer the door without having his whole body, excluding a small slit for his eyes, covered.
Justin didn’t have much of a childhood. Racial abuse as a youngster kickstarted a lifetime of debilitating anxiety. On top of that, while studying for his GCSE’s, Justin found himself in the role of a young carer for his mother and his two younger brothers.
Anxiety has had a huge impact on Justin’s life.
“I’ve always lived with anxiety, but I didn’t know what it was, this feeling in my stomach. It would radiate around my body and one day it all got too much. I told my mum ‘I can’t go to school anymore. This feeling will end up killing me’”
A slowly declining attendance rate at school reached breaking point at the start of year 11. Following two weeks off from an ear infection, Justin found it impossible for him to return to school. As the years went by, Justin tried to erase himself.
Once Justin stopped attended school he saw no reason to leave the house other than to take his younger brothers to school. He had always tried to hide behind hoods and hats, but this escalated and soon he was wearing two snoods, one to cover his hair and the other to cover his lower face.
“I didn’t have a will to live. I didn’t want to die, but at that point I didn’t want to live”
Due to his mother’s illness, Justin was already meeting with the young carers service for weekly catch-ups at his house. It’s thanks to them that Justin began to regain control over his anxiety and feel strong enough to leave the house and start attending courses with the support of his young carers representative.
The turning point for Justin was the death of his grandad. For Justin, his grandad was like a father to him and that loss had a huge impact on the whole family.
“I was turning to my mum for support, but she was looking at me for support. That’s when I knew something wasn’t right.”
This traumatic event could have caused Justin’s anxiety to worsen, but instead, it motivated Justin to better himself so he could look after his family.
His young carers representative could see the potential Justin had and encouraged him to give New Leaf a try. After attending the first meeting with him, Justin felt comfortable enough to attend the New Leaf group sessions alone. A major achievement for him.
During his time on New Leaf, Justin has come on leaps and bounds. Learning to overcome his anxiety has opened so many doors for him, including being able to get on public transport, starting driving lessons and even supporting people in a similar situation to himself. As a young carer, Justin is naturally a mature, considerate young man, so when the opportunity to become a volunteer on the Buddy-Up programme at Warrington Youth Club, his New Leaf mentor knew he would be perfect for it and supported him with his application.
The cherry on the top of Justin’s transformation is his return to education. Justin has always dreamed of becoming a plumber, but after his anxiety forced him to leave school, he never thought it would be possible for him. Fortunately, programmes like New Leaf gave Justin the opportunity to adjust working with other people and accustomed to being back in a learning environment.
Recently, following an application and an interview, Justin started college on a part time plumbing course. Justin is incredibly proud that he has reached this milestone and he is overjoyed that he will finally able to gain his dream job as a plumber.
“I can’t believe the difference that New Leaf has made to my life in such a short space of time. For the first time I am doing things for me and it feels great! Thank you so much for helping me to gain the confidence to do what I never thought I would.”
Name has been changed
New Leaf is led by Torus Foundation and is part of the Building Better Opportunities Programme, funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) and The National Lottery Community Fund.