EMPOWERING YOUNG PEOPLE TO REACH THEIR FULL POTENTIAL | KELY

Yuyu Kitamura

Yuyu Kitamura

Filmmaker and Actress

"High school is just a moment in time - it's not the be-all and end-all. Life gets better when you're done with homework and grades and you can really choose what you want to do in life."


Growing up, I had a lot of confusion about my identity. I never felt 100% of anything. I'm Japanese, but I never felt purely Japanese, because I've never lived there. I'm not Chinese, but I grew up in Hong Kong. I'm not Western, but I went to an international school, so I have a Western mindset. All of these parts of my identity were difficult to grasp growing up. It felt like I was never enough.

I went through a lot of mental health struggles as a teenager. I struggled with body image, self-harm, and depression, but it was very difficult to tell anybody. I was really good at hiding everything I was going through, so the people around me had no idea. At school, I was always a positive, happy, good student, but underneath it all, things were really dark.

It wasn't until I moved to New York for college that I was able to finally see a therapist and seek help. I think that in Asia, the mentality is that everyone goes through something hard, and you just put your head down and get through it. In the US, having open conversations about mental health was so much more normalised than it is here in Hong Kong.

Mental health is a life long journey. I still have the same depressive episodes that I did when I was a teenager, but now I have a better awareness of what I'm feeling and it's easier to find a healthier way to cope than hurting myself. I have also shared with my parents what I went through in high school. I think they just thought that I was going through a teenager phase back then, so it was shocking to hear that their child experienced such dark moments. When I finally told them, they were nothing but understanding, and now we have open conversations about it at home.

I think that even if you don't want to talk, there are other ways to share your feelings. You can write, dance, sing. Finding a way to express your feelings is really important. You can't keep it all inside. Besides acting, my other passion is writing poetry. I started doing it as a teenager because I couldn't verbalise my feelings; I didn't have the courage to say it out loud, so I would write it down.

A few years ago, I self-published a book. My mentor had self-published a book and she challenged me to do it, too. I didn't think I had anything to publish, so I figured I would just learn the steps to know how to do it. But when I got through the process, I saw that I had written a whole book from my poetry and even designed a cover, so I decided to go ahead and post it on Amazon. There is something so gratifying about being so scared of something and then overcoming it and doing it. Then you realise that sometimes it's just your own fear that gets in the way of really exciting opportunities. Now I can say I'm a published author!

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