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Stephen’s Story

Stephen enjoyed his day-to-day life like every child, until he got his first seizure at 13 years old. A short while later, he experienced a second seizure and was diagnosed with epilepsy. Stephen had been bullied by other children before his diagnosis and he found it hard to be open about his condition because it made the bullying worse.

The bullying from his classmates caused Stephen so much stress that his partial seizures became more frequent. He couldn’t participate in the same activities as his peers because he was worried that he would have a seizure. He wanted a safe outlet where he wouldn’t be mocked for his illness.

Stephen in character on the set of Two Suitcases, 2012.

In 2012, Stephen heard about Helium Arts’ community film project for teenagers living with chronic illnesses and jumped at the chance to take part. He would finally have the opportunity to explore his passion for acting. Stephen loved the project, especially because he knew that his illness didn’t matter to the other participants and he didn’t need to worry about being teased.

“I owe so much to Helium for giving me a calm and fun environment to pursue my reason for living.”

Stephen on set with fellow participant Eoghan holding their Best Film trophy from First Cut! Youth Film Festival for 'Two Suitcases'.

Stephen played the lead role in the film Two Suitcases which would go on to win awards and commendations at film festivals in Ireland and abroad … making Stephen an award-winning filmmaker!

Since 2012, Stephen has taken part in many of Helium’s film projects, developing his acting, writing and technical skills mentored by professional filmmakers and artists. Working with film professionals inspired Stephen to explore a career in acting and the arts.

“Helium’s film project gave me creative freedom that liberated me from my perceived boundaries that were set by my condition.”

Stephen and fellow creative peer mentor Eoghan worked with young people from CanTeen Ireland, the national youth cancer support group, on the Two Suitcases film project in 2015.

Stephen has continued to cultivate his passion for the arts, studying Performing Arts at CSN College in Cork and Broadcast Media Production at the University of Sunderland. He is currently a professional theatre educator bringing drama to young people struggling with circumstances similar to his own. He continues to work with Helium Arts, as a creative peer mentor on our film projects, sharing his acting skills with other young people living with chronic illnesses. He is also six years seizure free.

Watch Stephen’s star turn in the award-winning Two Suitcases here: