Blue Monday- a Message: Day of Mental Health Self Care

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(image: Excellence Assured)

So today is apparently Blue Monday- the most miserable day of the year, according to the media. Its January, Christmas has ended, the days are still short and dark. But, today doesn’t have to be blue in the sad sense of the word. We don’t have to be down today- even if we don’t feel great or strong.

Today can be about a day of self care, recovering, healing, hoping, dreaming and positive actions that can make your day better. Feeling like you can’t get out of bed today. Try just an hour earlier. Feeling anxious, depressed, low, or wanting to harm yourself? Seek support. Seek help. Don’t feel like you have to hide this or go through it alone.

Self care is so important- whether setting small goals to do, or phoning/ texting someone you love, to doing something, eg reading books, making art or listening to music, for the pure joy of it. Maybe you like running or dancing, maybe you like bubble baths and candles? Whatever is your thing- that thing you love, that heals your mind and body? Do it.

If you like meditation, meditate. If you need to talk to someone you trust, open up. If you need to be quiet and watch a movie, do that. If you want to see a therapist or doctor- go. You may not want to talk but you will feel better to get that weight off your shoulders.

Everyone is an individual. If you are struggling on todays Blue Monday (or Blue Self Care Monday)- please seek that help. You are not strange or weird for feeling how you feel. Mental health touches everyone regardless of age, sex, race or religion.

Remember to keep shining your light… even if its a tiny candle to fight the dark. You have this today. We are all here for you.       

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Book Review: Searching for Brighter Days Learning to Manage my Bipolar Brain- Karen Manton (Trigger Press)

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I bought this amazing book, because I very much wanted to read about another womans experience of bipolar disorder, living in the UK like me. It is also published by the great mental health publisher Trigger Press as part of their Inspirational Series. Their aim is to educate and battle stigma. I had previously read Hope Virgos book about anorexia published by them and I felt that this would be a challenging but good read.

Karen writes very eloquently about her life living with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. For many years she was in and out of hospital, with no proper diagnosis or understanding from the medical profession of her illness. She was sectioned multiple times due to mania and depression and although she healed from her episodes, they kept coming back with a vengeance. This was largely because she did not have a name for what she was experiencing and many times was discharged from hospital without proper support.

Growing up in the North East of England, Karen went on to work, marry and have children but had to balance this with the ever increasing and erratic episodes of her bipolar. This included psychosis, hallucinations and delusions as well as deep depression. However, during one hospitalisation, Karen met a new psychiatrist who finally diagnosed her and set her on the bright path that she is on. She began taking medication and engaging with therapy and support. She had a name for the illness and what she was going through. As she writes, she was searching for brighter days and eventually found them, despite many losses in her life.

For me, this book is a must read. You can buy it on Amazon and other book stores online as well as on the Trigger Press website. It is a really important work about succeeding against the odds and gives a comprehensive glimpse into life with bipolar disorder.

Thank you Karen for your bravery in writing this and sharing your story with the world!

 

Guest Post by Bailey Chauner and Redfin.com: How to Alter Your Home to Treat and Prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder

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(image: Redfin.com)

Each summer, we become accustomed to sunshine and days that never seem to end. We are outside, being active, and absorbing plenty of Vitamin D. It’s no wonder we feel so good! When fall starts to set in and daylight savings comes, our bodies receive less sunlight and we are often confined to indoor activities to combat the cold. With such a dramatic change, it’s easy to slip into a state of feeling hopeless, distracted, or even depressed. These feelings alone could be symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that occurs when the seasons change, primarily in winter. Everyone reacts differently, but the warning signs sometimes include:

  • Depressed mood
  • A sense of hopelessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased energy
  • Changes in appetite
  • Altered sleep patterns
  • Lack of interest in activities you typically enjoy
  • In some cases, people with SAD experience suicidal ideation. If you have felt any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.

But don’t worry, you’re not alone! Roughly 10 million US residents suffer from SAD each year, and another 20 percent suffer with a milder form of it. There are many more sufferers around the world. In fact, it’s very treatable. So while you’re huddled inside keeping warm, we are going to discuss ways you can treat or prevent SAD this winter simply by altering a few things inside your home.

Switch up your Lights

Using light therapy boxes can provide relief from SAD. Sitting near a light box for around 30 minutes a day, typically after waking up, provides similar light to a bright, sunny day. Keep your eyes open but don’t look directly in the light box. It’s perfect for sitting on your desk, makeup table, or where you eat breakfast.

Secondly, using a full spectrum bulb or daylight bulb helps some people find relief from darkness. Although it’s not powerful enough to mimic daylight, it’s a great way to reduce darkness in your house. Utilize bright lights to create a reading nook or inspirational space in your home. You can also purchase a treadmill or stationary bike and place it near these mood-enhancing lights, surrounded by plants. These ideas can help give you your “outside” fix even in winter, and can go a long way in fighting seasonal depression.

Add Greenery to Your Home

Bringing more plant life into your home is a great technique for managing SAD. You can fill the rooms you visit often with green, colorful, blooming plants, or set up a room or area in your home that can be a sadness-free retreat. Set up a yoga mat to practice mindfulness next to an exercise area; adding movement to your day will help produce endorphins and serotonin that can improve mood.

If you’re all about gardening, building a DIY greenhouse in your backyard is a great fall/autumn activity that can help you get ready for the winter months. You’ll be able to grow vegetables and fruits year-round, which can help improve your mood since you won’t have to miss your favorite summer treats.

Bring in Some Colour

Take a look around you and ask yourself, do the colours in my home make me feel good? If the answer isn’t “yes,” then it might be time to switch up your home’s colour scheme.

If you’re surrounded by dull or dark colours outside, you might feel the tug of depression more deeply if those are the same colours you’re surrounded by inside. A fresh coat of paint might be just what you need! Paint your walls colours that inspire warmth and joy, like a cosy sunrise or warm, light blue water. Plus, adding a home improvement project to your to-do list can help boost your energy and creativity during a time when laziness lurks around the corner. Studies have shown that setting, working toward and achieving goals can be a big mood booster any time of the year.

If painting is too much work, you can also swap out your throw pillows or blankets for brighter colours. Duvets and pillow case covers are an easy way to change the appearance of your home without throwing out your current décor and or having to commit to a new style long-term.

Finally, hang up some of your favorite photos of you and your friends, family, or pets. Research shows that recalling times of happiness can provide a dose of happiness in a blue moment.

Don’t forget the kitchen

Eating more fruits and vegetables is a proven method for tackling many kinds of depression, including seasonal affective disorder. An easy and fast way to consume more fruits and vegetables is to make a morning smoothie. Embrace daily healthy eating by exploring new recipes online and from your friends. Cold months lend themselves perfectly to soups, stews and crockpot recipes. Try new ingredients, and invite your friends over to taste the results. Not only will the food feel good, but your company will, too! Even when your instinct is to avoid social situations, having friends and family over can be the push you need to feel more upbeat and happy.

And while you’re in the kitchen, check out your surroundings. If the room is highlighted with grey, steel appliances, consider adding pops of upbeat color and warm touches to brighten your mood. Paint the backsplash behind your sink a warm butter or khaki shade, add pops of green alongside wispy plants, or add bright coloured appliances like a teapot, coffee maker, or mug display. Even if you aren’t noticing the colors in a room at every moment, they can still impact your thoughts and emotions.

Put Some Soul into Your Surroundings

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Customize your home to give off positive vibes that boost your mood year-round. Surround yourself with things that inspire you like your favorite music, art you love, or quotes from authors.

Consider how music makes you feel. You can purchase and install a surround sound or multi-room music system to pipe in your favorite tunes whether you’re in the bathroom or the bedroom. A simple Bluetooth speaker works wonders too!

If you enjoy the outdoors but the lack of sun and warmth are keeping you indoors, bring the outside in. Set up a room or a corner where you can experience similar activities, like a trainer for your bicycle, yoga mat, or some free weights to keep you in-shape.

Last but not least, consider design schemes that will inspire a positive attitude. Put some soul into your surroundings. Choose decor that will help you build confidence, feel happy, or bring back memories. Start by making a list of things that you know make you smile, and then find ways to create an environment that replicates those same feelings.

While experts are still unsure the exact cause of seasonal affective disorder, whenever changes come around the corner (big or small) humans have an emotional response. You don’t have to be diagnosed with SAD to feel a bit of the blues during the colder, darker months. Luckily, SAD is very treatable and these home tips for managing feelings of depression can help anyone, any time of the year.

Post courtesy of Redfin

As a reminder, our tips are only suggestions and if your feeling of sadness persists, contact a therapist near you.

Guest Post by UnitedMind Laughter Yoga: How to get the most out of your Job and Wellbeing.

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(image:health.com)

Being unhappy at work isn’t just ‘one of those things’ you need to put up with, even in today’s society where hating your job can seem to be glorified. You don’t have to be incredibly passionate about your industry or role to still enjoy coming in (although it helps if you do love it!) , and there are a few tips and tricks that can help transform that negative outlook into a positive one.

Have a carrot at the end of a stick

Spending your time at a job you don’t like is always going to be stressful, so we recommend thinking about the carrot at the end of your stick when you’re staying late or having a busy day. What are you saving for? What are you looking forward to? You might not care about the company you’re doing the work for, but you will care about the dream you’re putting the money towards.

There’s nothing wrong with working a job for the pay check; we all need a roof and food. However, if you really want to start genuinely enjoying your job more, we recommend trying to get more out of it than just a pay slip at the end of the month; or at least get more out of that pay slip.

Get pleasure out of purpose

In Happiness by Design, Paul Dolan speaks about how we derive pleasure from purpose, and this is directly important to how we should approach work. Doing the bare minimum isn’t great for the company or team you work in, and “just enough” will start to mentally make you feel inadequate. Inadequacy usually leads to anxiety,  and sometimes you feel awful. You  then a cocktail for a terrible working environment and for your own wellbeing.

Instead, you should try hard at your job , as long as it is not affecting your health. Positive peer reviews and promotions can reward the work you put in, which will make you feel more positive, and that positivity can snowball from there into something considerable.

Hard work and happiness breed confidence, so even if you still don’t like the place where you work, there’s nothing stopping you from taking this new found conviction to go and land a job you will love. Sometimes a fresh start is all you need.

Turn your co-workers into friends

Walking in to an office full of people that you don’t know and aren’t friendly with can make work a lonely experience. However, if you socialise with your co-workers and make an effort to speak to them, then you might even start looking forward to work because you’ve got Emma that you can speak to about the match at the weekend or David who you can chat with about the latest episode of your favourite show.

We recommend, even if it means leaving your comfort zone, that you go to as many work outings as you can. Drinks after work are always good at making everyone feel more comfortable around each other, but even going to something like a light yoga session at lunch could be the start of a routine to bring you and your colleagues closer together.

A nod and smile in the hallway is, relatively speaking, a small gesture – but it can make a workplace seem so much more welcoming.

You and your space

If you have a desk, something as small as tidying it can do a lot to change your mind set. If you have papers and rubbish all over your work space, you will start to feel cluttered and swamped; physically and mentally. The process of throwing away everything you don’t need can feel very relieving and almost like a detox.

Personalising your work space can also help make work more enjoyable. A picture of a loved one, a little happy picture/ object or even a plant you can look after all help make your area feel yours; we can forget how important individuality is sometimes.

This article was provided by the team at United Mind, who provide laughter yoga for those that want to have a little fun while improving their mental and physical health. Thanks also to Jack Bird.

Sources:

 

Last few days: UK Blog Award Voting, Aftermath of Mind Article and Working on my Anxiety

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Its been a really busy few days on Be Ur Own Light blog. My first blog for Mind Charity on living with bipolar disorder was posted (you can read it in the below post) and I had the most amazing, positive reaction to it. I had emails and Twitter messages, some from people who are struggling and who wanted advice, others with bipolar who just wanted to chat because they didn’t know anyone else with the illness and some who wanted to help me to fight stigma via writing on the blog. Others merely expressed dissatisfaction with their own care. I’ve heard every single voice on all the different platforms and want to thank all of you for responding to my article in such a wonderful and important way. I have tried to respond to everyone who has written to me, liked or commented. I write to fight stigma and to break those barriers down and thank Isobel at Mind for helping me to share my story.

Then, in true Eleanor style, this week would be the week too that the voting for the UK Blog Awards 2018 opened! I have been nominated in the Health and Social Care Individual Category and need you all to VOTE for me to be shortlisted and get to go to the awards as a top 10 blog in my category (or a potential winner).

So please click here  https://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2018/entries/be-ur-own-light-mental-health-recovery-blog    

Then type in your name, email and the health and social care category. Voting closes on December 22nd so thank you so much! I appreciate any votes. Thank you too to everyone on my Facebook (and my Dads), Whatsapp, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter who have voted for Be Ur Own Light, it means the world.

Lastly, I am still job hunting but still experiencing some anxiety around work situations. I know that things will improve if I just do as much as I can. I am also working with a therapist to tackle this. I am now on Day 9 of Holly Matthews 21 Day Smile Happy Me Project and it helps me to look at things more positively, so will keep up with that.

Have a great weekend friends- new guest blogs are being posted next week 🙂

Eleanor x

Guest Post: ‘Don’t count the days it may take for Recovery, make the days count’- On PTSD by Christina Hendricks at www.mentalhealthzen.com

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(image: PTSDscreening.org)

Trigger warning: contains descriptions of PTSD symptoms

“Don’t count the days it may take for recovery, make the days count. Seeking timely professional help boosts healing, instills hope and ensures recovery,” said 51-year-old Michael Hughes (name changed), a highly decorated firefighting veteran from New York as he stepped out of the therapy room after an intense session of trauma-focused psychotherapy. “Mental health issues are just like any other disease where recovery takes time. You need to have faith, be positive and stay strong,” he said with a smile.

Michael revealed that his job gave him post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and that he got the problem from what he had seen. His 25-year stint as a firefighter with the Homeland Security and Emergency Services fetched him multiple laurels, but at a great price, which he continued to pay for years. After 22 illustrious years of service, he was diagnosed with PTSD because of which he was discharged from service.

Years of attending innumerable incidents of horrendous fire and fatal high-rise blazes gave him nightmares later. Frequent flashbacks of infernal flames engulfing entire blocks of buildings, scenes of the injured and dying being pulled out of the debris, and thick, choking clouds of black smoke adding to the mayhem became an inevitable part of his life. The impact of his job was so powerful that even watching television shows involving fire accidents would send shudders down his spine, waking him up in either cold or hot sweats.

Soon the mental agony made him feel as though the entire world was crashing down on him. Moreover, the fear of becoming an object of scorn and ridicule was so overpowering that he hesitated to express what was going on in his mind. He feared what seemed very real to him, may seem illogical or unreal to others around him. He knew that each traumatic experience of the past was gradually taking its toll on his mental health. The truth was the post-traumatic stress was wreaking havoc on the inside, while he still managed to look seemingly fine on the outside.

But it was a matter of time that he reached a stage when he completely lost all control over his emotions. Even the smallest of fire sparks or the sight of someone hurt or injured would make him upset and depressed. Nevertheless, what was controllable once, had become uncontrollable. Even the smoke coming from a cigarette would trigger a series of vivid flashbacks of a major fire accident, evoking painful memories of the past.

However, it was one ear-deafening Fourth of July, which blew the lid off. The non-stop pompous bright flashes and earth-shattering aerial fireworks all around him became unbearable. The petrifying sounds brought gut-wrenching scenes repeatedly to his mind. The ghastly flashbacks unleashed chronic unrest and panic attacks. He felt so low he contemplated his own life and what it meant. But as fate had ordered it otherwise, a well-timed intervention by his wife Amy (name changed) made him rethink his decision. “Sometimes it’s okay not to feel okay,” were the precise words she used. Her comforting words encouraged him to fight his condition by seeking support. He finally felt assured that his wife wouldn’t view his vulnerability as a disgrace.

Michael’s involvement with numerous emergency situations in both natural and man-made disasters during the course of his career compelled him to bottle up an ocean of emotions, anger, sadness, losses and grief. Finally, on hitting rock-bottom, it was in the mental health rehab that he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, in addition to PTSD. Besides, the most important lesson which he learnt was to speak his mind. He realized that his family needed to know what he was going through so that they could help in some way or the other. Secondly, he realized that any mental problem should be viewed as a chronic mental health condition, requiring regular visits and check-ups, monitoring of treatment adherence, effectiveness and tolerability, and spreading awareness about the disorder.

The mental health specialists at the rehab, recommended Prolonged Exposure (PE), Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) and Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), in addition to a PTSD K9, to help Michael cope with his condition. Additionally, he was advised to workout with a personal trainer six days a week. Michael knew that it would take a long time to heal the scars of more than two decades, but he was confident that soon the damage will no longer be able to control his life.

Factors that prevent individuals from seeking help

“The brave men and women, who serve their country and as a result, live constantly with the war inside them, exist in a world of chaos. But the turmoil they experience isn’t who they are; the PTSD invades their minds and bodies” – this excerpt from Robert Koger’s 2013 bestseller Death’s Revenge is probably what Michael experienced during a significant chunk of his firefighting years. Apart from the existing confusion and lack of awareness, other reasons that force most individuals employed in emergency services battling similar mental conditions to not seek professional help are:

  • Seeking help could lead to undesirable consequences: The fear of being denied promotions or being ignored due to the stigma surrounding mental health could be a major reason for many to keep quiet.
  • Avoiding any form of discreditable dismissals: Studies suggest that being branded as mentally ill could lead to dismissal, negatively impacting the benefits of such individuals, including their chance to secure employment elsewhere.
  • Being cut off from access to treatment: Postings of emergency services staff across isolated locations worldwide could be another reason.
  • Screening for mental health is viewed in poor light: Popular notions of stigma, guilt and shame that surround mental disorders can prevent many individuals from seeking the required support.
  • Facing problems is a manly thing: “PTSD affects only non manly men,” is one of the biggest misconceptions nurtured by most men in uniform. This attitude need to change completely or else things could blow up to devastating proportions.

Acknowledging mental disorders is the first step to recovery

Living in a socio-cultural set-up where any symptom of mental problem is viewed as a sign of weakness often tends to reinforce the stigma surrounding mental ailments. In fact, even near and dear ones, including family members, don’t seem to prioritise mental health disorders as they would other physical illnesses. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), around one in five adults (approximately 43.8 million people) in the United States experiences mental health disorders in a given year. Moreover, one in 25 American adults (approximately 9.8 million) is also known to experience a chronic mental health problem, interfering with major life activities.

But the support of family members can work wonders in eradicating the stigma linked to mental health. In fact, studies suggest mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety, have their own way of hoodwinking even the most cheerful of people into believing that their existence is good for nothing and disgraceful. It can drain energy and happiness, shatter sleep patterns, eat up vigour and vitality, disrupt concentration and hamper functioning, leaving the individual in a constant state of dejection.

Mental health professionals insist on managing mental illness just like other chronic physical health ailments like hypertension and diabetes. The need of the hour is to encourage family members to stand with their loved one’s in providing the support and strength. Acknowledging the truth that there is a serious problem, and that their loved one is fighting a battle within is the first step to recovery. In fact, it is another way to direct people to professional mental health care services.

This article was written by mental health blogger Christina Hendricks at www.mentalhealthzen.com . Featuring case studies of real people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

On Developing Positivity and Hope: A Self Development Journey

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(image: motivation grid)

Its a brand new week. I have of late been struggling with anxiety attacks again (when I go to sleep sometimes the feared situation pops up in my mind and stops me from doing what I want to do) so I am taking time to heal myself and be more positive. I want to find hope and live a more positive life so I can live the life I want to live.

This prompted me to start my friend Holly Matthews 21 Day Happy Me Project. This blog is not an advert for it, but the course is something I am doing for me, using positive affirmations and thinking, the law of attraction and goal setting to find techniques to live a happier, healthier life. So, I have printed off my work book, listened to the first webinar and audio and aim to set a few mini goals and start work. Also, Holly is awesome and a big inspiration to me!

My anxiety disorder is  a struggle- I still can’t seem to get it under control, its like taming a beast. However I hope that through finding a more positive mindset and talking out my feelings in therapy (separate to this project) that I will start to feel better again.

I am working on self development at the moment, however long it takes but must remember to be kind to myself and keep going through the storms.

Hitting the Pause Button: Taking a step back to promote Wellness

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(image: https://blogrhiaepoitiers.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/il-est-temps-de-faire-une-pause/)

Last week was particularly tough for me as I have written about and I felt really down. So this week, I decided to hit the pause button and just relax as best as I could, before attending job interviews next week. I am staying at my Dads in the countryside this week and while I have been doing a little bit of job hunting/ applying, I have mainly been resting and trying to promote as much relaxation as possible. I felt so drained and stressed out last week when I received some difficult news and knew I should take a step back in order to promote my wellbeing. I am feeling so much better, after having lots of sleep and not beating myself up over what went wrong.

Sometimes, I think that when we go through hard times, it can be all consuming. Your brain replays the upsetting event and tries to analyse it and think where you went wrong or if you could have done something differently. This week, after several days of this, I have chosen to pause. I have had to, for my own sanity. I am also lucky that even though financially things can be hard, I have the support of my family. Not everyone has that. That has made me be able to be more positive as well. I know that I am one of the lucky ones in that.

Last night, I went to the cinema to see Paddington 2 which was adorable. A very sweet, happy, family movie. Just what was needed really!

I know that things will get better again and am trying to draw on my strength and past experiences to be resilient and move forward. It is never easy. I am hopeful this week that I will get there, and part of that is from pausing and regrouping.

Mental Health Stigma and the Workplace: Part Two

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(image: Time to Change Wales)

I am going through a particularly challenging, and at times, upsetting period in my life at the moment. This involves job applying and interviewing and facing job rejection. I was recently rejected for a job that I really wanted and knew I could do, having interviewed there and had a positive reaction. It is really hard when you try your best and put yourself out there to follow your dreams, to have it thrown back in your face. There is a blessing in every lesson – as India Arie would say.

For me, in the past, I have had times where I have had periods of sickness off work. These have been due to anxiety and panic attacks as I have written about before. However, I am working on this in therapy at the moment and feeling so much more positive and resilient about work and life in general. I love working, I am good at it and I am able to hold down work and hope I start in a job I love soon.

I have a goal and know I will get there. Its very difficult sometimes when you have time off because it doesn’t matter what its for, the workplace penalises against you for it via sickness records. You are seen as unreliable, incapable and not a good employee, there is job stigma- even if you woke up and had a panic attack and had to force yourself in, it has a knock on effect for the job search and life in general. There is still a stigma as to how you are seen.

So- I have been seeking support to help me in the past month and I feel I know what I am, where I am going and what I want to be. I will keep being resilient in the face of setback and I will achieve my dreams of being a teacher, with the support of loved ones.

It is really tough, it makes me feel low and down on myself- but I will emerge stronger. I hope that one day the workplace changes to see employees with mental health issues as an asset and not a burden. I am also really thankful for my new therapist at the moment- everything will be alright in the end.

New Look Site on Be Ur Own Light: a Mental Health Recovery Blog!

I wanted to make Be Ur Own Light clearer to access and easier to read aesthetically. I hope you like some of the minor changes to make it more accessible.

Welcome too to all our new followers- we are nearly at 300 on WordPress and over 3,000 on Twitter and over 2,000 on Instagram.

Be Ur Own Light is written to challenge mental health stigma and more posts will be published shortly.

Thanks,

Eleanor, founder of Be Ur Own Light