Turning the corner from despair to a brighter future: Ivan’s story

July 17th, 2019
Ivan Peña at the Cornerstone Celebration of Accomplishments event

Entering high school, Ivan Peña wanted to drop out as soon as he could. It wasn’t because he didn’t want to study and learn. Rather, it was his struggles with his mental health. He suffered from depression and social anxiety, and the bustle of high school made him feel more agitated and alone.

Ivan is now 20. He just completed his first year at Wayne County Community College in pursuit of an Automotive Systems Technology (GM-ASEP) Degree. He is also working part-time as a mechanic at a dealership. He has many friends, and he enjoys giving back to help others in need.

How Ivan was able to make this transition is a testament to his perseverance, the steady support of his parents, and a team of dedicated clinicians at Southwest Solutions.

Ivan first came to Southwest Solutions for mental health treatment when he was 12. His symptoms were often so severe that he was hospitalized many times. Psychiatrists at Southwest Solutions prescribed and calibrated medications to help stabilize Ivan’s emotional swings. Therapists helped him work through issues, strengthen relationships, and effect coping strategies.

While he was at Melvindale High School, clinician Edna Chang worked with teachers and counselors at the school to devise an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) for Ivan. Edna then advocated sending Ivan to a specialized school in Southgate designed to assist students with serious mental illness. Ivan, his parents and Melvindale High agreed with this plan, and Ivan consequently earned the credits he needed from the specialized high school to graduate.

To earn his high school degree and prepare for the responsibilities of adulthood, Ivan needed a strong support system. Southwest Solutions’ Cornerstone program became an important part of that support structure. Cornerstone helps young people learn the life skills they need to be successful and independent. Ivan joined Cornerstone four years ago upon the recommendation of his clinician, Melodi Litkouhi.

“I met others in Cornerstone who have similar problems and we became friends,” Ivan said. “I learned how to socialize and manage my anxiety better, and also live healthier. I learned about the responsibilities of preparing to get a job. But I think my favorite part of Cornerstone was all the activities we planned and did to help the community. I am grateful to Cornerstone for helping me find a path to success.”

Cornerstone helped inspire Ivan to continue his volunteerism. He recently returned from an effort organized by a Christian nonprofit to build and repair homes for poor families in West Virginia.

“Ivan is working towards great things for his life and it’s wonderful to see,” said Melodi, who now supervises Cornerstone. “He has fought hard through periods of doubt and despair, and despite the difficulties he has faced, has tried his best to trust the process of therapy and believe in the possibility of greater emotional stability. I am proud of his courage to continue pushing forward on his own and to continue accepting help from others when needed.”

Ivan now has a strong and clear idea of his goals in life.

“I want to become a mechanic, earn a living, buy a home, and have a family and a good life,” Ivan said.

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