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Celebrating Hope & Inspiration

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Celebrating Hope & Inspiration

Dennis (not his real name) was 13 years old when he was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)—a common anxiety disorder that involves chronic worrying, nervousness, and tension. It can make normal life difficult and relaxation impossible. Through attending programmes and tuition at YouthReach, and with the encouragement of his case worker, his tutor and his peers, Dennis was able to eliminate his anxiety and build self-confidence. He is about to embark on his journey toward his dream, and will be attending LaSalle College of the Arts later this year.

How did your condition affect you in your daily life?

I tend to overthink and blow things out of proportions a lot. I would immediately assume the worst and wouldn’t be able to get out of bed. When I was in Primary 4, I started having physical problems like headache or a stomach ache, and ended up skipping school a lot. It got worst along the way and I would often be admitted to the hospital. Every time the doctors wouldn’t be able to find anything wrong with me. They said my head, stomach and chest were perfectly fine. But the same thing would happen again in a few months. It was during my PSLE when I ended up in the hospital for a very long time. I was admitted for two or three months and it was then that the doctors suggested that I see a psychologist or a counsellor. My parents disapproved of me seeing one at first but eventually allowed me to. I was diagnosed then and given proper treatment. I had quit school only after attending one week of secondary school. For the next three years, I would go to YouthReach for activities because I had nothing to do at home. But I wasn’t showing up at YouthReach often. It was like one activity per month, so I was spending most of my time at home. I had problems coming to YouthReach because I have to wake up early again and get back into the routine. When I wasn’t able to make it, my caseworker would say, “It’s ok, we can try it again”, and would continue to keep in contact with me to find out how I have been.

How has YouthReach helped you?

YouthReach has been incredibly supportive in both my mental well-being and academic pursuits. Through tuition both at home and at the centre, they managed not only to broaden my knowledge, but often provided moral support and steered my self-confidence back on track whenever I doubted myself. This in turn led to achieving my goal of getting an ‘O’ level certificate, which I have been struggling towards for years, and eventually landing me a spot in the college of my dreams. Everyone at YouthReach has been amazingly patient, kind and understanding towards my goals, pushing me towards greater heights whenever I needed it the most. For that, I am most grateful.

What do you wish people knew about you that they may not know about?

I guess with the stigma of mental illness and everything, I would just want people to know that I am human just like they are. You don’t have to treat me any different because I have feelings too. If I didn’t ask to be treated differently, just treat me as how you would treat others. Some people seem to have this impression that they have to be extra careful with what they say around me, sometimes to the point where they just don’t tell you some stuff. They say, “oh, it’s ok”, because you have this anxiety thing, they are afraid that any thing they say might be a trigger to me. And I know they are coming from a good place but it feels a little bit suffocating sometimes.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self to keep singing and it would be ok. Yeah the most important thing is that it would be ok because that was what I needed to hear the most. Even if it was repetitive, I find that if I keep telling myself it would be ok, keep singing, keep doing what I like, I would get somewhere.

What personal accomplishments are you most proud of?

I was involved in a play—“Stigma”, a youth drama production about mental illness. During the rehearsal, I was inspired by everyone and their recovery stories. When I went home, I picked up the guitar and wrote a song but I didn’t expect everyone to like it and even for it to be used in the play. Till today it was the biggest achievement for me, to have the public listen and to be a part of the play.


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