Meet Ben, a 19-year-old member at Legacy, Croydon Youth Zone. Ben struggled with his employment status due to severe stress and anxiety. He struggled to commit to activities and being proactive and productive daily. He sought help in a youth pastor at his church, who referred him to Legacy Youth Zone. Below is Ben’s story on how Legacy, Croydon Youth Zone’s employability programme ‘Empowered’ has supported him with coping with mental health and gaining a new job.
“Sadly, quitting has been a common theme for me in the last couple of years, I deferred my university place as a result of my mental health, and when I got a job as a care worker, I also quit due to stress and anxiety. Looking back now, I’m not ashamed this happened as it meant I could focus on my wellbeing and try and find myself.
It feels like it has been a long journey, I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I met with my youth pastor every day, he supported me in regulating my emotions – every day was a mental uphill struggle. Every day after meeting with him things got easier, I felt ready to take the step back into studying again but didn’t feel confident to take the full leap. I was referred to Legacy as they had a programme for people like me not in education or employment. I started, and then I quit – social anxiety played a major role.
The staff at Legacy got in touch with me again a month or so later and checked in with me and encouraged me to come back onto the course. I did, and I’m glad I chose to do so. During the course I got to do work around my growth mindset and understanding who I am as a person. There were some weeks that I felt too low to even leave my house, but I’m proud of myself for making every session of training.
The staff recommended I also take part in weekly mentoring sessions where we explored what interests me personally and professionally, and surprisingly I got into vlogging – for someone who suffers from anxiety this was a big step. I worked for a couple of weeks developing videos and sharing amongst my family and friends. Additionally, we worked on differing calming techniques I could use when going through stressful times or even if I was stressed or anxious whilst working.
Since then, I’ve decided that I want to be a public speaker which is a long-term goal, I can help others like me who suffer with anxiety and mental health issues in general, and break through the boundaries and push yourself out of your comfort zone – when you’re in that positive space, anything is possible. The Empowered team have signed me up for a public speaking course, and I’m loving it so far.
I also got introduced to Legacy’s fundraising team, who have a relationship with BOXPARK in Croydon, they were running a charity event, and asked a member from Legacy to come down and meet the team and speak about my experience. I’m glad I did it, it was exciting and rewarding, and I’d love to do it again.
I’m grateful to the Empowered team for their encouragement and providing me with positive actions which I can do at all times.
I recently applied for a retail position at Tesco’s and got the job – the confidence I felt in the interview is down to the training and support I received at Empowered. I still attend weekly mentoring sessions at Legacy, and no longer need daily interventions from my pastor to manage day to day life. I’m also planning to restart my course in Computer Science at University in September.