A YOUNG man from Bournemouth with Asperger’s syndrome has described being pulled from the brink of suicide by finding a passion for performing as a singer and ambassador.
In his early years, Wallisdown schoolboy Calvin Glen knew he was different. He found himself excluded from his peers, unable to create friendships, and was diagnosed with Asperger’s when he was six.
Ahead of World Autism Day on April 2, the Daily Echo spoke with Calvin and his mum Marie about the struggles endured during Calvin’s childhood – and how two local community groups helped bring him back to life.
“I was always aware that I was different from other kids growing up,” said Calvin.
“I spent a lot of time in and out of school and I was bullied badly throughout which caused a lot of anxiety. There was a period where I could barely leave the house because of how anxious I was about social interaction.
“It’s super common for autism and mental health to go hand in hand and I think there’s a plethora of reasons behind that. The world likes to tell you you’re not going to achieve things which creates more darkness and despair.”
Calvin’s mum Marie also felt the impact of her son’s struggles. She said: “When he was going through school he was so unhappy and struggled to the point where he self-harmed and on one occasion tried to take his own life.
“That was devastating, I just felt helpless.”
Their lives would transform, however, when Calvin picked up a guitar for the first time. He recalled: “I couldn’t find the words to express how I felt and we had an old guitar lying around – my mum knew a few cords so she taught me those and I began using music as a way to express myself.
“I ended up finding a passion, something I love, a positive focus and finding a community I fit in with. I then started to look at things from a different perspective.”
Calvin eventually gained the confidence to begin performing self-written songs in public and soon found kindred spirits, and friends, in the Bournemouth music scene.
“I became part of this community of people who are all eccentric in their own way and had similar experiences to me,” he said. “I owe the Bournemouth music scene a lot.”
He was soon contacted by mental health charity Dorset Mind who trained him in public speaking and entered him into an ambassador programme.
“Out of all that darkness I went through, Dorset Mind gave me the opportunity to help other young people not go through the same things. They allow me to be my authentic self without judgement.
“I dread to think had I not had the strong support from Dorset Mind, the Bournemouth music scene and my mum, I do think what would have happened?”
Calvin, 21, is now studying at the London College of Music and remains involved as a mental health ambassador. Marie, inspired by her son’s transformation, now works for Dorset Mind full time.
The mother and son are one of the families featured in a new parent’s tool kit familymentalwealth.com, a free online resource for parents whose children are struggling with mental health issues.