By O’Joy Limited
Despite the growing awareness of mental health issues and treatments in Singapore, suicide continues to be the leading cause of death for youths aged in their 20s. This is based on the studies released by Samaritan of Singapore (SOS) in August 2020. O’Joy Limited is actively involved in the works of mental health disorder prevention and intervention. Youth is one of the profiles that we focus on serving.
Today, we would like to share a story of a young life that we have touched in the course of our work.
Dylan was shouting so much in the counselling room during the first few sessions of counselling. He had so much anger inside him. So much frustration that was pent up for many years since young. He wanted so much to be heard."
This was what Elizabeth, Dylan’s counsellor, recalled of her first impressions of Dylan.
Dylan was 21 years old and was suicidal from a very young age. He always felt that he was unwanted and unloved, and that the world would be better without him.
Dylan comes from a family of elites. His parents have successful careers and hold high positions in big companies. His brothers and sister excelled academically and began their careers as lawyer, accountant, and doctor, respectively. Being the youngest child born 10 years after his siblings, Dylan did not get much attention from his parents and siblings since young. His father travelled a lot for work and his mother seemed to pay more attention to his siblings. Dylan was brought up by his grandmother whom he was very close to. After she passed away, he felt that there was no one left in the world who truly cared for him.
Unlike his brothers and sister, Dylan was average in his studies. His parents compared him a lot to his siblings. Dylan began to internalize that he was not good enough and that his parents would love him if he did well in his studies. Dylan was also bullied in school but he could not tell his parents or siblings.
When he became a teenager, he turned rebellious and aggressive. He used anger and aggression to seek attention from his family and as an outlet for his suppressed emotions.
His trigger came when he was in the first year of university. On the demands of his parents, he enrolled in business school which is not his interest. He has a passion for dancing, especially street dancing, which he is good in. However, his parents would not allow him to pursue his interest. Unable to do well in school, he became extremely stressed and could not sleep. Due to poor self-esteem, he had no friends in school and could talk to no one. Dylan felt like a total failure. He felt trapped and saw suicide as the only way out of his problems.
Dylan had gone to the doctor for insomnia and was referred to O’Joy for counselling. His counsellor, Elizabeth, spent time and effort to establish a safe space and good relationship with Dylan. Work was done to validate his emotions, feelings, and experiences. With the guidance of Elizabeth, Dylan learnt new skills of self-care and gradually became more aware of his own emotions and triggers. He developed the ability to reflect and self-regulate when his emotions are triggered. Such skills were important in preventing suicide and self-harm.
During the period of counselling, Dylan experienced an episode when he was particularly moody. He remembered his promise to contact his counsellor even though he was actively suicidal. He also called SOS helpline and was hospitalized. On retrospect, Dylan is proud of himself for seeking help.
Elizabeth continued to work with Dylan about his family dynamics, empowering him to talk to his parents. His relationship with his family improved as he became more mindful and had fewer anger outbursts. He was more open about talking to his father about his suicidal thoughts and more willing to receive help from his father. He became less afraid that his family would judge him for not being academically inclined. Gradually he established hope that he can convince his family to accept his interest and dreams. This hope reduced his suicide ideation. With support from his family, Dylan later quitted business school and enrolled in a professional course for dancing.
Recently Dylan contacted Elizabeth after SOS announced that the number of suicide cases was highest amongst youths in Singapore last year.
I would have become one of the statistics for suicide if not for you.”
He thanked Elizabeth for helping him overcome suicide ideation and agreed to share his story so that other troubled youths can seek help.
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Issue 7: December 2020