TRIGGER WARNING: Calvin’s blog contains mentions of suicidal thoughts, actions and self-harm. Please consider this before reading on.
If you’ve been upset by any of this content, please call the Samaritans on 116 123.
World Suicide Prevention Day focuses on ‘Hope Through Action.’ I am sharing my recovery journey as a child who experienced severe depression to give hope to other children and parents.
It is possible to get better and live a positive life.
My feelings of depression started as young as I can remember. I first considered taking my own life at age six which led to a CAMHS referral and a diagnosis of an autistic spectrum disorder alongside being diagnosed with associated mental health disorders such as severe social anxiety, clinical depression, and psychosis.
But I had felt a long time before this that I wasn’t normal, and I didn’t fit in with everyone else.
From day one I found attending school and mixing with other children incredibly difficult and very distressing. Things which other children found exciting and enjoyable such as playtime, Christmas or Birthday parties filled me with dread and anxiety.
I couldn’t understand myself, let alone express to my family and teachers why I was so unhappy.
My psychosis meant that I was hearing voices and hallucinating people telling me to hurt myself, the people in my head were often talking to me in a strange language I didn’t recognise. As I got older this became stronger to the point where I struggled to tell the difference of what was real and what wasn’t. I was terrified. I ended up hospitalised due to an attempt on my life.
I was bullied throughout school by my peers for being weird and frequently in trouble with teachers for misunderstanding instructions or for acting up. The bullying became far worse when I attended senior school. For a while I tried to fit in by hanging out with a less than desirable crowd, who often got me in trouble, including encouraging me to smoke, take drugs and act the clown in class.
They would often manipulate me into doing things for them, such as looking after their drugs/tobacco, eventually this led to temporary exclusions from school and periods of doing my lessons in solitary confinement. I was told I was unlikely to be able to take GCSE’s or achieve any qualifications.
I became increasingly emotionally overwhelmed and isolated in my own dark world, causing frequent meltdowns. Eventually I was no longer able to attend school.
At around age 13-14 things began to improve, I had a brief intervention from CAMHS in the form of an autism support group. I realised, I wasn’t the only person to feel like this and I learnt more about autism and began a journey of self-realisation.
I discovered music which helped as an outlet for my dark thoughts. I started at a new school for performing arts where I was given proper support from an LSA who went above and beyond to look after me.
The adult music scene was incredibly supportive when I started to perform my music at local open mic nights and showcases. They made me feel like a member of their family. They liked me for being me!
I began to share my experience through my music and campaigned for autism awareness. I organised and put on a music event at age 14, to raise money for Autism Wessex.
These positive focuses helped me to feel better about myself and who I was, increasing my confidence. Gradually the feelings of isolation, depression and the suicidal thoughts began to lessen.
Dorset Mind discovered me at age 15 at a mental health awareness event, where I had been asked to perform some music. The CEO spoke to me at the end of the event and asked if I would be interested in becoming an ambassador for the charity.
Since this day I have never looked back. I have dedicated my life to improving my music skills and to campaigning for mental health awareness.
I have worked three contracts in the music business and performed at hundreds of venues both locally and further afield. In my exams achieved ten GCSE’s and a BTEC level three extended diploma in performing arts. I have run my own open mic nights, where I have replicate my early experience of the support the music scene gave me – ensuring everyone is welcome.
Raising money and awareness, I have represented Dorset Mind and other charities speaking at many events and even appearing on TV. I have created video footage for Dorset Mind campaigns, other charities and for the NHS.
Through Dorset Mind’s training and support I have learnt about myself, how to spot symptoms of mental health illness reoccurring and how to keep mentally healthy. Dorset Mind also nominated me for the BBC Teen Awards, which led me to having the privilege of meeting Prince William and Prince Harry.
I am now studying for a BA Hons Degree in Musical Theatre at The London College of Music. I hope to become a performer in the West End. Alongside this I have been working as an apprentice for AM Licensing, in the music licensing industry. This has led to me next week taking a trip to America to represent the company at LA Sync Mission in Hollywood!
I still have challenging periods with my mental health, but I have a far greater awareness of how I’m feeling and I am able to notice when my mental health is dipping back into a dark place. I check-in with myself mentally on a daily basis, and I am able to realise when I need support, such as counselling or medication.
To some degree I think I will always be in mental health recovery and on a self-discovery journey, but I now have the tools to ensure I can cope and enjoy a normal life.
If you are a child or a young person struggling with mental health:
- Please first and foremost talk to someone, tell them how you are feeling, even if you don’t understand how you are feeling, let someone know you don’t feel right.
- Seek professional support, clinical support, or counselling. Support from Dorset Mind has been an essential part of my recovery.
- Find positive focuses to help you feel better about yourself and to distract you from dark thoughts.
- Never forget: these feelings will pass, and things can and will get better.
- Listen to your children.
- Don’t dismiss their feelings or what they say.
- Reach out for professional support for your children.
- Be your child’s greatest advocate.
- Childhood mental health illness is not your fault and is nothing to be ashamed. One in eight children experience mental health symptoms.
- With the right support your child can recover and succeed in life.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my Mum for her continuous support. If it wasn’t for her fighting for me, advocating on my behalf and always believing in me, this could have been a very different story.
I don’t let my mental health illness define me, but I use it to motivate me on a journey of self-discovery, Yes, I may always struggle but I am now excited about the future.
When I met Prince Harry, he said to me “This is not the end but just the beginning.”
These words echo in my head every day, and are my inspiration to keep going, in bad times and good times.
To our incredible Ambassador Calvin Glen for this brilliantly open and honest blog. What an over-riding message of hope shines through as he navigates his journey with his mental health.
Help and support
If you need support, please reach out. Don’t suffer alone.
If you are struggling to cope with your mental health in general, please talk to your GP. If you’re in a crisis, treat it as an emergency.
NHS Dorset’s Helpline ‘Connection’ can be reached on 0800 652 0190. It’s also available 24/7.
We can help with non-crisis interventions. Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your wellbeing. The group offers peer support and helps to reduce stigma by normalising conversations about mental health. You can also check out further support for stress and mental health here. You’ll find links for 1-2-1 and groups mental health support we offer here.