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Katie Houghton | Birmingham, UK
Positive Role Model (Disability)

I am extremely passionate about mental health and raising awareness. This comes from having battled with my own mental health for a large proportion of my life starting with depression and self harm at 14 which moved on to anorexia in my 20's and later down the line being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I have had multiple hospital admission for anorexia and 3 in general psychiatric wards for feeling suicidal and major depressions, one of which followed a manic episode with psychosis.

I missed out on a lot of life but I wanted to use it all for something positive rather than being bitter and so I now work hard through my own personal projects that I put together including displays of hundreds of handwritten messages of hope attached to a park entrance on world mental health day 2018 where people could remove them and take them away if they were struggling, I had to replenish the gates three times and I had people stop me in the street to tell me about themselves or loved ones and I saw other people talking every time I went past which was amazing and I was so pleased that it really resonated with people and allowed them to speak to people in a situation that otherwise would not have happened. I aim to replicate that project this year as it was such a great success.

I also did a "tree of hope" where I attached 250 hearts of hope over the Christmas period to a tree, again for people to take away which all had the Samaritans number on the back of each one.

Another example of my projects was a display at Solihull library of handwritten messages and tags with helpline numbers on for people to take away.
As part of that display the library organised a drop in session with IAPT in front of the display for people to go in and talk and seek help.

I also send "Happy Post" free to people struggling to offer hope and make them smile from my website where I also blog and vlog about mental health issues and related topics.

I am also currently organising an event to take place in mental health awareness week in Birmingham where I have speakers to share their stories and awards to recognise people that have overcome adversity, helped others and inspired others in relation to mental health that would otherwise go unnoticed as I believe that ordinary people can do amazing things too that deserve some recognition that in turn inspires them to carry on with their journey or acts of kindness.

I have spoken openly on various radio stations, The victoria derbyshire show, RT news live, newpapers and other platforms to share my story so others don't feel alone and to offer the message that no matter how bad things get, even when it feels like you no longer what to live, it is possible to get through and for things to change even when that feels impossible.
I was also recently part of the Loyds Bank #GetTheInsideOut campaign.

I have written a book on my own journey through mental illness called In Bloom Not Broken which is available on amazon to speak about what it really like to suffer with mental illness, no heirs and graces.
I wanted people to see that they are not alone with the feelings that they may find shameful and that there is hope.
I also wanted to raise awareness through my story of how some aspects of mental health treatment within the UK needs to change. I have included diary entries and poems written at the time and really hope that it will inspire others that recovery, even if it is not perfect is possible.

I have also written a childrens book that is about diversity and acceptance in the form of a little yellow fox that wears square glasses and rocks odd socks!
I believe that conveying a message to children in a way they understand about accepting differences within themselves and others and also about speaking about your feelings is really important as mental health issues are on the rise in children so young. It's important to educate them in a relevant way.

I aim to build on what I do over time and want to carry on raising awareness and helping others, I am also training as a counsellor at the moment which is something I have wanted to do for years.

I have sat planning to end my life and thought I would never achieve and while I may not have achieved like others with careers and the like I have found my purpose in using my negatives for something positive and is something I am incredibly passionate about and really would like to build on.

You can see my website at www.mentalhealthjourney.co.uk and you can also find me on twitter under @KatieHoughton85

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