A young man with long, curly hair, a beard and glasses stands in front of a concrete grey wall and some plants. He is smiling at something off-camera.
20 Jul

Hamish's journey with Chill

About Chill and Code Blue for Autism

Established in Brisbane in 2017 by Helen and Michael Whelan, Chill delivers coaching programs for developing social skills to young adults on the autism spectrum (18+). Their evidence-based curriculum, which includes peer mentoring and creative play, supports young autistic adults with improving their confidence, social skills and self-esteem. Chill is now an industry-leading program in a sector typically dominated by deficit-based supports, and has improved the lives of many young autistic people as well as the lives of their families, carers and friends.

Hamish is a young man whose journey to Chill began after years of isolation and battling severe depression, anxiety, and loneliness. His mother, concerned for his well-being, suggested he try Chill's social skills coaching programs. Reluctant but aware that a change was necessary, Hamish took a leap of faith. Keep reading to learn more about his story.

Q & A with Hamish, facilitator at Chill

What led you to Chill?

I left school in Year 10 and didn’t keep in touch with anyone. I spent most of my time in my bedroom, gaming. I had severe depression, excruciating anxiety and was very lonely. I only left home to go to appointments. I wouldn’t even answer the front door. My sister would go to Video Ezy and take videos out for me. I spent seven years (post-school) isolated at home. To be honest I had dropped off the face of the earth, and my Mum was extremely worried about me.

How did you find Chill? 

My Mum heard about Chill and its social skills coaching programs and suggested I give it a go. I was very, very reluctant but also knew if I didn’t do something I would never leave home.  

What was the first Chill session like?

I remember pacing outside the studio, desperately trying to ignore my negative self-talk. I kept asking myself why the f*** am I here?! I was terrified. The session kicked off and before I knew it, it was over. Fast forward, three terms later, and Chill became the highlight of my week. The mentors treat you as an equal, they never judge me, and everyone wants to get to know you. They are respectful, and they get me. The mentors are so genuine and cool. I love the creative games in each Chill session, which can be very silly!  It’s a lot of fun.  

My anxiety started to reduce. I enrolled in Chill Art. Because I was seeing everyone (mentors and Chillies) more and more, I started to feel like I was part of the tribe. I met a guy in Chill Art, Jerry. He was cool, very funny and we got on well. Jerry and I started hanging out together, going to the movies and eating out. My Mum was so thrilled. My confidence was slowly building.

I then enrolled in Chill Write. I love creative writing. A couple of the mentors commented to me that I was supportive of the other Chillies, making them feel comfortable, especially the new ones.  I really understand the Chillies. I get them and they get me!  Not long after, Code Blue approached me and asked if I would like to become a mentor. More and more I was being the real me, I dropped my mask (that has protected me for years) more and more. I was feeling much less anxious, and I loved being a mentor. It felt so right. I mentored for a year and then Code Blue asked if I would like to learn how to facilitate sessions. I have been working as a facilitator for one year now and I hang out with all the Chill team (34 in total) regularly. My social life has never been better. I still have anxiety but it’s different now. Jerry and I are best buddies.  

Before Chill I was extremely anxious, very depressed, and always alone. Now I have a job that has so much meaning and purpose. I am passionate about helping Chillies become the best version of themselves. I have found my tribe.

What would you say to someone who is thinking of going to Chill?

The timing will never be perfect. But just jump off and give it a go. You won’t grow if you don’t give it a go. At Chill they get you, they respect you, and they want to connect with you. My journey with Chill has fast tracked my life to where I want to be. It’s fantastic!

Chillies: a cool name for Chill participants.

Final thoughts

Hamish's story is a testament to the power of stepping out of one's comfort zone and embracing a world class program and supportive community. Through Chill, he found his passion and purpose, forever grateful for the opportunity to help others on their journey to becoming the best versions of themselves.

To learn more about Chill and their evidence-based supports for young autistic adults, visit their website.

Written by Helen Whelan, Founding CEO and Director of Code Blue for Autism.

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