Feeling misunderstood and not knowing the reason can weigh heavily on one’s shoulders. Kenny felt this way for most of his childhood. Eventually, this feeling of uncertainty and fearfulness led to acute mental health challenges that Kenny had to learn to overcome.

Kenny was an excellent student in elementary school. He excelled in math and competed in cross-country running. However, Kenny’s confidence and grades quickly began to decline due to the severe bullying he endured at school including name calling, spitting, hitting, and classmates going through his bag.

The bullying continued until Kenny was 17, when he decided to change schools during his Grade 12 year. Kenny knew that he was fearful. However, Kenny did not understand that the behavior of the other students was inappropriate. As a result, the bullying towards Kenny continued for a long period of time. It was a confusing mystery that brought him to a dark place in his life. “I really didn’t know what made me different,” said Kenny.

In December of 2019, after he had changed schools, Kenny was diagnosed with Autism. It was a relief for him as this diagnosis provided answers to the many questions that he had throughout his life. A couple of months later, Kenny began to receive treatment at Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Stabilization Unit (CAPSU) – a short stay unit for children and youth who need mental health crisis stabilization. However, Kenny continued to fixate on negative emotions which led him to have suicidal thoughts. He was then referred to the Adolescent Day Treatment Program (ADTP) where he received intensive treatment for a year.

The ADTP program includes a variety of treatments and therapies that supported Kenny in his journey of recovery. Part of the treatment at ADTP includes Family Therapy, which was a big step in recovery for Kenny and his family. Prior to this treatment, Kenny felt that his family viewed mental health as a taboo topic. Thanks to the Family Therapy sessions, Kenny’s family was able to overcome this stigma and, in the process, allowed Kenny and his family to learn patience and understanding.

With the proper treatment and care that Kenny received at ADTP, he felt heard and understood. Today, Kenny volunteer coaches a running team at a high school – the same school where he was bullied. It is an incredible full circle moment as he is now able to go there with a positive mindset and without the feelings of fearfulness he once had. Kenny is also excelling in university with a 3.5 GPA and hopes to continue his studies to pursue a career in medicine or neuroscience. Kenny is confident, secure, and happy.

“If a youth was going through cancer, if we don’t recognize it early, the youth really doesn’t have a shot. It’s the same for mental health, it’s a health issue. By supporting youth mental health, we’re giving them another chance at life,” says Kenny.