Anthony Leong, 27, a psychology student in Nanyang Technological University, was diagnosed with depression when he was 19 years old. When Depression hit right on the second day of enlistment in national service, Anthony started to have extremely well thought out plans on how to harm himself and how to end his life.
Developing such uncommon thoughts was terrifying for him. Although he confessed having had suicidal thoughts during his junior college days, it was never so elaborate - it was never to the extent of planning every single step to make sure his suicide plans would be successful.
“It’s like a special hell for you where there is no hope, there is no light... No matter how much your parents or your friends tell you ‘I love you, I support you’, you cannot feel that warmth... You can’t even feel anything.”
The unusual thoughts scared him so badly that it eventually led him to seek treatment. Early in his diagnosis, however, Anthony never took his depression seriously. While he attended counseling sessions, he did not follow up with the ‘homework’ assigned by his counselor as he assumed that his depression would go away once national service ended. However, wave after wave of depression hit even after he moved on to university, resulting in him having to take several leaves of absence. He now lags behind his same age peers by 3 years. This, however, forced him to start taking his treatments seriously.
As a male, Anthony was ashamed of his depression and did not dare to share about his condition with many people. Brought up with the thinking that males must not be too expressive, it was tough for him to share his struggles with his friends. He was also afraid that people around him would think that he is weak or judge him for being “guniang”.
However, his counsellors and psychiatrist encouraged him to open up about his condition. Afterall, they cannot be with him all the time and he needed to have people that he could turn to immediately in times of a mental crisis. Anthony eventually found courage to open up about his condition and this made him realise that people are actually more supportive and understanding than he had expected. Often times when his depression made him feel worthless, his friends assured him that they did not think this way about him. Support and acceptance from them helped him to learn how to abandon stigmatizing labels that did not benefit him.
“If you feel that this label is not beneficial to you, just abandon it. Throw it aside, define for yourself who you are, don’t define yourself based on what society labels for you.”
Anthony now takes seeking help more seriously and social support is now a very large part of his help-seeking process. He treats his counseling sessions seriously and has learnt how to recognise his own symptoms. Whenever he feels that his symptoms are showing up, Anthony actively seeks out his friends’ support and engage in activities that helps him to keep a depressive episode at bay. He also tries to keep a healthy lifestyle by cycling often.
“Seeking help has helped me find new meaning in life, it has helped me to rediscover myself. It has helped me to question how do I improve myself instead of dwelling on how worthless I am.”