MATTHEW CLIFTON shares his emotional story

SINCE I was 14, I suffered from a deep type of depression that made my life difficult and very different to what it was before. I lost my good friends, ignored trusted family members and was shutting the world off. I wasn't coping as well as I was before and I found almost everything difficult. I couldn't even cope with going out much and it made my life hell.

People didn't know what was happening to me, even I didn't know, and it wasn't until I was seen by my doctor that I was diagnosed with depression. This was the hardest part for me, the diagnosis. I couldn't get my head around why I was depressed. I was so happy and enjoyed my friends and family's company before all of this.

The trouble I had when suffering from depression was the low level of understanding of it. My psychiatrist understood my depression and the help I needed (even now I still need slight help) but it was as if nobody else understood and it made my journey very difficult.

I used to attend a session of counseling twice a week and it was difficult at first talking my problems over with a stranger. But, as sessions went by, it became a lot easier for me to discuss my problems. The problems, over time, became easier. However, I wasn't able to continue with my studies at my secondary school due to the poor understanding of depression and how it affects a person. The school did not seem bothered with what was happening in my mind.

They only cared about able and capable students. My mind wasn't the same as it was when I first started, so it was as if I was thrown on to a skip and ignored. I didn't finish all of my GCSEs at school, however I was accepted at Huntingdonshire Regional College.

My first tutor, Catherine, was a great, understanding tutor and she continued helping and supporting me to the end of my course. She understood what depression was.

Within my first year at college, I felt different. I didn't feel like I did at school, I wasn't worthless and I certainly wasn't being bullied or ignored because of my depression.

Due to the care and appreciation shown to me at HRC, I am still studying there. I feel that the college has helped me to turn around and give me a clear direction and focus for my goals. My tutor now, Greg, is a great person. He started my interest in business burning a few years back, and since then I have continued studying business, achieving great results and really enjoying my time there.

Since overcoming depression and attending HRC, I have felt more able. I feel comfortable and happier than I ever thought I would. I have been nominated for a Young Person of the Year award, and I was chosen as one of the people to open the college's new building.

I have created a website for depression sufferers, which provides help, support and encouragement. It enables them to see my story and gives helpful tips and advice.

I am currently in the final stages of publishing my book - I just need to find a publisher and a shop to sell it in. I believe that my experiences and advice would be a great book to share and hopefully the day will come when this can happen.

The Mayor of St Neots, Barry Chapman, has kindly asked me to turn on St Neots' Christmas lights. It has been a long journey but to be asked to do something this big has motivated me further.

I still suffer from depression but I am more able to cope with it. I haven't let the uncared-for feeling bring me down. I regret attending my secondary school and do not believe that the right level of care or help was given to me. However, I use that failed experience as a motivator and the way forward is to not look back.

Huntingdonshire Regional College has made me a better, stronger person and I want to thank them for that. Susanne [Stent, HRC's principal], Greg and Catherine have all become a great part of my college life and, without them I am not sure what would have happened.

It just goes to show that I needed people other than family for my journey and after receiving a poor education and failed care from secondary school, it was great to go into a warm, friendly environment where I felt cared for.

Together, the awareness of depression can be spread and sufferers can be understood further.

INFORMATION: Visit Matthew's website at http://beatdepressiontogether.webeden.co.uk/