A Richhill teenager who has survived bullying and discrimination to turn his life around, has won an award for his work on raising awareness of mental health.
Joshua Hewitt turned 19 last Wednesday - the same day he was presented with the Ignition Campaigner of the Year award at a ceremony in Belfast.
Just five years ago, Joshua had reached the depths of such despair that he was on the point of taking his own life, and was only prevented from doing so when a passing police officer saw him sitting on the ledge of a bridge.
Joshua, who suffers from Tourette’s Syndrome, had been bullied both at primary and secondary school, with the involuntary tics which are a feature of the condition making him a target.
Today, Joshua actively campaigns for suicide awareness. Last year he launched a YouTube channel called The Hewitt Collective, documenting his life, which has received almost a quarter of a million views to date.
He also works with a charity called Fixers - which nominated him for the award - promoting the message to other victims of bullying that ‘things do get better and to stay strong’.
In June, Joshua made a film with Fixers called ‘I Am’. Said Joshua, “It’s very personal. It’s about how my life was five years ago. But it shows that you are more than what other people label you.
“It says I am a survivor of hate, of discrimination and of bullying.”
Joshua found the strength to speak about what had happened to him through his YouTube blog. “I just got to the point where I didn’t want people to make the mistake I was so close to making.
“I never thought in a million years I would be as happy as I am now.”
Joshua, whose Tourette’s is much more manageable since he underwent tic reversal therapy, says the award has spurred him on to achieve even more.
He added, “In 2017, I would like to start touring different schools and talking to pupils about mental health and bullying issues.”