Taking ownership of your mental health: Andrew’s Story

Andrew was diagnosed with bipolar disorder as a teen. He found himself fighting with his family, dropping out of school, and even getting hospitalized several times.

With LOFT’s support, Andrew is managing his mental health well, reconnecting with his family, and building his video production business. Below you can read his story in his own words.

“Life takes us places we can’t imagine. My family and I came to Canada from Ghana when I was 9 years old. I was just a regular Canadian kid until I hit my teens. At 16, I began staying up for days on end. My mum took me to the doctor, who said I was bipolar and prescribed medication.

When the meds made me feel like a zombie, I rebelled. I didn’t take the meds regularly, and instead of stabilizing, I got worse. I fought with my family, and dropped out of school. Even worse: I was hospitalized several times.

So, here’s what I discovered about mental health:  It takes something powerful to shift us off the path of self-destruction. For me, that powerful thing was LOFT.

Antonia, my worker, has a way of explaining things that make sense to me. She made sure I got the right medication, and a place to live in a LOFT building where I was safe and cared for. She also encouraged me to think about what I wanted to do with my life. I’d always been fascinated by videos and had taught myself to produce them. I knew I wanted to start a video production company, but how?

As I talked with Antonia, I realized that I needed a portfolio. What if I approached a local business and offered to produce a video for them – for free? I did, they said yes, and were blown away by the result. They even offered to pay me!

Everything seemed to be going my way. But there are bumps on every journey toward mental health.

Two years ago, I had a manic episode – a bad one. So bad, that Antonia urged me to check into hospital. Instead of taking her advice, I decided I should go on the CBC program, The Dragon’s Den, to talk about my video production company.

When I arrived at the CBC building, a protest was going on. As I stood in the lobby, I was more interested in the big screen and how it worked than I was in the protestors. But CBC security thought I was part of the demonstration and asked me to leave.

My response was vulgar and violent. The police were called and, as I struggled with them, I hurt one of the officers. What happened next? I went to jail. Then back into hospital. And this time, my doctor recommended something different – electroconvulsive therapy. I had twelve treatments. And it worked!

For the first time in years, I felt like myself again. And since then, I’ve been doing much, much better. With Antonia’s help, I’ve taken ownership of my mental health.

Now, I have more stability in my life. I’m reconnecting with my family and building my business. My life story is just beginning. The first chapter was about me transitioning from a miserable, confused teen to a young man with a bright future. And I couldn’t have done it without Antonia and LOFT.”

LOFT’s Transitional Age Youth (TAY) Programs offer services to youth up to the age of 26 who face challenges with mental health, physical health and/or substance use. We serve young people from a wide range of gender, racial and cultural communities. We strive to provide an equitable, non-judgmental environment in which youth can receive the support they need..