Abbotsley teen fights back against depression to help others

A TEENAGER who considered taking his own life while suffering depression has turned his life around – and is now helping other youngsters with mental health issues.

Eighteen-year-old Matthew Clifton, a student at Huntingdonshire Regional College, has been nominated in the Young People of the Year competition, a year after being shortlisted in the same competition.

Matthew, who lives with his family in Pyms Gardens, Abbotsley, has designed a website, written a book and runs workshops for young people who have suffered in similar ways to him.

Matthew’s life was made a misery by bullies but he is now off all medication and only requires twice yearly counselling sessions.

He said that helping others has put his own worries into perspective and he hopes to have his book, How Teenage Depression Didn’t Defeat Me,� published soon.

His lecturer, Greg Cooley, is very impressed with Matthew’s efforts.

He said: “I have seen many bright enthusiastic faces over many years but without exception Matthew’s has stood out for all the right reasons.

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“Matthew has taken on one personal and social challenge after another, coping and excelling at every opportunity.

“Rather than run and hide in the shadows, he recognised and confronted his downward spirals, eventually overcoming them.”

Matthew felt there was not enough information available to young people suffering from depression, and often they were stigmatised for admitting they had mental health issues. He spent a year building the website� He has included advice and links with the NHS and other bodies and has personalised the site by detailing how he has dealt with his own depression.

He said: “I try to encourage and motivate people. Once you are down low it can be very hard to lift yourself up. I try to remind them they have their family and friends and the rest of their lives.

“At a young age if you can change, it’s good.”

Matthew’s workshops at the college invite anyone who is suffering to come along and get help.

“I see myself like a life coach,” he said. “I explain about depression and hand out information packs containing the treatment that’s available.

“It’s important to have your condition identified. One student was bipolar and hadn’t been diagnosed. I encouraged them to get help from the doctor, rather than struggle on alone. Another one had Asperger’s Syndrome and had trouble communicating and I took them to the counsellor, where they could get help.”

One of his fellow students, Kirsty Redman, said she trusted Matthew because he was a friend, so his advice was more valuable.

Kirsty said, “Matthew and I met a few years back. He was a good friend of mine at college and had been supportive.

“I was diagnosed with a type of depression that I could not cope with. I told Matthew and he helped. He gave me support and encouraged me to get through the last year of my college course.”

She continued: “Matthew was bullied at school. He never gave up and that is what encouraged me to try. Even though I still suffer from depression, I know I can call Matthew up or email him and he always helps me.”

Mr Cooley added: “His contribution to the college is unparalleled. Matthew is a giver, an ambassador of good causes who has himself struggled and successfully overcome personal challenges. He has become a wonderful role model for others to follow. I fully endorse his YOPEY award nomination for this year without reserve.”

YOPEY founder Tony Gearing said: “Despite Matthew’s difficulties, he always puts others before himself, as such he is a fine example of what YOPEY represents.”

Any young person aged 10-25, who is a positive role model and gives to others, can nominate themselves or be entered by anyone who knows them for Ferrier Pearce Young People of the Year. The winner will receive �800 from a total prize pot of �2,000 put up by sponsors, including Cambridgeshire communications experts Ferrier Pearce and Cambridgeshire police. To nominate logon on to