Thursday, 30 June 2016

Celf - supporting ambition in the arts

Our guest author this week is Rachel Dunlop, the Project Co-ordinator for the Arts Council of Wales funded Powys-wide Learning & Practice Project at Celf o Gwmpas in Llandrindod Wells. 

Rachel has an MA in Fine Art and is passionate about supporting ambition and realising creative aspirations. She co-ordinates residencies, workshops, gallery trips and exhibitions at the charity whilst bringing people together to learn through a creative means. 

As part of our year-long Learning and Practice project, throughout June we have been running sessional weekends for artists who have experience or knowledge of the arts and mental health.

The Learning & Practice Project is made up of multiple strands. Blue MacAskill is working with ‘at risk’ young people through film making, and Stephen Park is holding sessions at various venues throughout Powys during his residency – including The Welfare, Ystradgynlais and Oriel Davies, Newtown. Working together, they are developing knowledge, practice, experience and creative aspirations and promoting wider understanding of arts and mental health.

Stephen Park - Artist in Residence
In November 2016, Celf o Gwmpas is hosting a week of events and activities -Boxing Shadows - in a celebration of arts and mental health as part of WALLS:MURIAU Welsh Mental Health Arts Festival 2016 (details at the end of the post).

The aim of the peer-to-peer training sessions in June 2016 is to provide a platform for artists to develop and elevate their professional practice while giving them the opportunity to exhibit work as part of a Wales-wide Festival.

Our first session was on 11 June at Centre Celf, Llandrindod Wells. We were aiming for up to 6 participants for the group, and found that we were oversubscribed! We began with Stephen introducing himself, and playing ice-breaking games where we got to know each other and tried to remember everyone’s names! 

Stephen explained his ideas of finding creative ‘flow’ as an artist. He showed us images of artwork that he felt had achieved this ‘flow.’ ‘Flow’ is achieved when we are being creative but not too restrictive and not too perfect. Imagine it as a line… extensive on the left (creating freely without inhibitions, restrictions) and then intensive on the right (where we’re being too careful, too precious with our work). Stephen explained that the ‘sweet spot’ is somewhere near the intrinsic, but still creating with an element of freedom. It’s when we arrive at this spot that we are in a rhythm of creating work as an artist which is vital to developing and sustaining our practice.

We then did some ‘High Pressure, Low Expectation' exercises where we had to create something by following a brief, for example, creating a drawing by using no more than 5 lines. It didn’t matter what it looked like, it was the process that was important. This is important to apply to our own practice as artists. We’re often so caught up in what we want the end result to be – we might have an exact idea of a painting or a sculpture in our mind - but we need to accept the process itself may change the course of the result. It’s when you accept the validity of the process that the work becomes authentic.

On Sunday 12th we worked more intensively on ideas of teamwork to find ‘flow’ with each of the participants and started creating the beginning of a series of artworks. Participants had the job role of the Art Director where they took ownership of their series - deciding the colours, shapes and subject. The only rule was - they had to form a pattern. After creating three/four of their series, they then switched from 'Art Director' to 'The Artist's Apprentice' and moved around the group to each person's station, observing and attempting to follow the pattern. The aim was to have a collaborative series of artworks based on finding a creative flow and working together – and we did! It was interesting to see how each person had interpreted the Art Director’s series from their own perception. 

With the first weekend being one of such encouragement, we then organised individual mentoring sessions with each artist to apply these ideas to their own practice. From 12 - 18 June each of the participants had a one-to-one mentoring session with Stephen. This gave each artist time to chat with Stephen about their own work, what they’re interested in, and the direction they’d like to go with it in the future. It’s important as artists to have regular feedback on the work we create and to gain a wider understanding of the artwork in context. As well as this, some pieces that we may have disregarded others might see value in. As the peer-to-peer training sessions are for artists who have already established a level of professional practice, it’s been a fantastic opportunity to meet with Stephen who gives solid and constructive advice on developing their practice.

For the remaining sessions in June, the artists are putting ideas they have learned into practice by creating work for the Boxing Shadows Exhibition at Centre Celf in November. Between now and November, they will be working on a personal project developed in these sessions. We’ve set up a private online forum where the participants can share ideas, comment on each other’s work and encourage each other after the sessions end and throughout the summer as they live all over Wales. In addition to this, we will be having two gallery visits during the summer months to gain inspiration, as well as meeting up at the start of November to curate the Boxing Shadows exhibition as a group.

Boxing Shadows Programme:

Thursday 10 November 4 - 6pm - Exhibition Preview at Centre Celf, Llandrindod Wells

Providing a platform for the artists involved to exhibit and screen work. In parallel with Stephen Park's residency exhibition - showing new work created during his 6 month residency in Llandrindod Wells.

Friday 11 November 6 - 8pm - Performance at Centre Celf 

Performances/Stand-up comedy evening with:

  • Artist in residence Stephen Park.
  • Writer, performer and outsider artist Sean Burn.
  • Havin' a Laugh showcasing a Powys-based project helping to build confidence and improve mental wellbeing through comedy. 
Tuesday 15 November 10am - 4pm - Panel discussion & Artists' Talks – Centre Celf 

Artists in training presenting their practice with Stephen Park talking about his residency and:
  • Blue MacAskill (tbc) tackling issues of aspirations, isolation, rurality and immobilization through creativity and art. 
  • Sean Burn reclaiming the languages of lunacy, reflecting on his own lived experience of long-term mental distress. 
  • Jane Cooke, Senior Officer, PAVO Mental Health Team, psychotherapist and trainer exploring forms of expression that bypasses a diagnosis in the minds of both client and mental health worker, and leading an investigation of creativity as a tool for encounters at different levels of experience. 
  • Amanda Wells (tbc) former Celf o Gwmpas mentored artist and instigator of Celf-Able, a group of disabled artists in Mid-Wales, who meet to do art together, share skills and break down barriers.

Many thanks to Rachel for telling us all about this exciting project at Celf o Gwmpas. To find out more contact Celf o Gwmpas, tel: 01597 822777 or email:

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

From London Zoo to Brecon & District Mind - introducing Matt

Matt Sowerby (right front above) recently joined the team at Brecon & District Mind as the new Volunteer Co-ordinator. His work involves co-ordinating a number of new volunteer projects, including an environmental project working in partnership with the Brecon Beacons National Park and Brecknock Wildlife Trust.

Matt’s background is in conservation. He previously worked in South Africa and at London Zoo, and more recently as a warden at the Brecon Beacons National Park.

We caught up with Matt at his Brecon base to find out more about several exciting new developments at the mental health charity recently.

Tree identification group
Tell us more about the Eco Project you are working on

The ‘Brecon and District Mind Eco Project’ is an exciting opportunity for anyone who is interested in the natural world and how to care for their environment.

The project, in partnership with the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, allows volunteers to take part in Environmental Conservation work which includes wildlife surveys on native species, pond clearing, invasive plant control, and bird box siting amongst many other interesting and enjoyable tasks. Members will be assisting in the management of a National Park wildlife garden and varied habitats where activities such as hedge laying and drystone walling can be done. We also offer our volunteers the opportunity to gain recognised accredited training in rural skills and conservation work.

What benefits does your conservation background bring to the project?

Having worked in conservation for over 10 years I have been able to work with a lot of amazing organisations where education and conservation were one of the main focuses. So I have seen a lot of ways to enthuse people on conservation.

Also I have worked at the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority for a year and have been able to meet a lot of different people in the organisation that was helpful in starting this project, as we wanted to work in partnership with them. I have also worked with other groups such as the BIS group ‘Biodiversity Information Service’ and the Brecknock Wildlife Trust who are also working with us on this exciting eco group.

Tree identification
Describe the garden at BBNP and the work you and the volunteers are planning

The wildlife garden is about a quarter of an acre of land set aside by the national park to create a wildlife garden at the visitor centre near Libanus. We have an impressive variety of wildlife already living there, from our ‘insect hotel’ area (this is a specially designed set of pallets and different objects for insects to nest in and take shelter), to our bird feeding stations and wild areas where brambles and long grasses are left for animals to shelter in and find food. We also have a large wildlife pond that that we’ve surveyed and found smooth newts and common frogs as well as fresh water snails and water boatmen among other things.

The eco group has already done work on improving the paths and seating area for the visiting public and designed an interpretation panel that tells visitors about the flora and fauna you can see.

We have a lot of different plans for the garden that include drystone walling, hedging and creating a foraging area for edible plants as well as creating a compost area where we can recycle all the food waste from the national park tea rooms.

Who can volunteer to join the project?

Anyone is welcome to join this project whether you have worked in conservation before or never done anything like it - it’s a good place to learn. It is ideal for people who are struggling with social isolation and just need some confidence building and would like to work with liked minded people.

Eco volunteers walk up Pen y Fan: L-R Fred, Aimee, Gregor, Joe, Stuart, Dave & Dec the dog

How does working outdoors impact on people's mental health?

Working outside has been proven to help with mental and physical health for many years. Working outside in this way can have lots of positive health benefits. For example, it can help you manage your mental and physical health, and could help prevent future periods of ill health by getting active and meeting like-minded people. It also improves fitness as well as improving the area around the participants who contribute to the work which is carried out.

‘It gives me structure, makes me utilise the daylight and get out of bed. It gives me something outside of myself to nurture and look after and that helps me to better look after myself.’ Volunteer

I hear you are developing other volunteer projects. Can you tell us about these?

This is a big question as there have been so many new projects to work on. 

Firstly, we have developed our ‘supporter’ volunteer project which is where volunteers who are interested in working in mental or social health can assist the staff in the day to day running of groups and outreaches and take on roles to assist in running courses and other events such as our complementary therapies.

We have also started the ‘Woman’s Zone’ an all-female work group where participants create art and craft work in a therapeutic environment and then run a quarterly exhibition of their work.

The ‘Men’s Shed’, which is at the development stage, is an all-male work group that will be taking part in practical projects and social activities that improve social isolation and mental health.

Our filming volunteers are being given workshops on lighting and sound, interviewing skills, and camera work as well as presenting and editing film. The group is planning on filming short documentaries on the work done here in Brecon Mind.

Westenders community ART is a programme designed in partnership with the Westenders Theatre Group from Brecon. The volunteers will be creating a large art installation of the Westenders logo and installing it at their hall in Llanfaes.

We also have volunteer ‘Ambassador’ roles to engage members of the public to promote, advocate and fundraise on behalf of Brecon and District Mind.

Eco volunteers outside the bee friendly garden in Brecon with Co-op staff who helped

What kind of support do you offer volunteers who sign up for these projects?

We can offer support to our volunteers through an induction and training programme. We also offer monthly supervision to all our volunteers so they can set themselves personal goals and targets and discuss any problems.

As well as receiving ongoing support through the entire volunteer activities, we also want to give all our volunteers the chance to control the direction of the programmes and have their say in the volunteering, so we encourage people to express their thoughts and ideas, and take control of their own volunteering when they feel able to.

Eco volunteers working outside Brecon Library to add a bee friendly planting

Tell us how your work fits in with that of other voluntary sector groups

We have a running partnership with lots of organisations such as Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (PAVO) and the Brecon Volunteer Bureau, as well as working with the National Park volunteer programmes and Wildlife Trust. The volunteers are encouraged to work with other volunteer groups to promote networking and confidence. We also take referrals from other organisations in the third sector, such as Kaleidoscope and Gwalia Housing.

What is the most challenging aspect of working on this project?

Keeping an eye on all the projects! We now have six programmes running plus four outreach centres and twenty supporter volunteers who work in the centre, as well as another  thirty people volunteering on our specialist programmes.

Working with so many different groups and organisations takes a lot of concentration and logistics but it is fun to get it right, meet so many people and learn about their work.

Now tell us some of the rewarding aspects about working on the project

I have a lot of creative control over these projects which is a lot of fun and working with volunteers that get something out of the process is good, but also I value the chance to work on conservation and education as it's my background and what I have always wanted to be able to work in.

Eco volunteers building benches at the BBNP Mountain Centre in Libanus
L-R: Stuart, Fred, Elwyn, Joe, Aimee

What is the most valuable thing you have learnt since starting your role?

Organisation. I have always been very scatter brained but being back in a managing role has helped me focus more on planning my day.

What do you like to do in your own time when you’re not working for Brecon & District Mind? 

My wife and I run a dog boarding house, where we are licenced to keep six dogs, including our own, in our house while people are on holiday. And we have one dog of our own called Dec.

We also have a pet rat called Hugo who is a training rat that we are using to teach animal care. I am a keen artist and am currently on three local committees, including the Westenders Theatre Group Committee where I am Vice Chair. We are both performers in the local panto with Westenders every January and enjoy meeting up with the group for a few drinks and a good chat every week.

Many thanks to Matthew for telling us about the latest volunteer projects at Brecon & District Mind. 
If you would like to get involved then you can contact Matthew by emailing or ringing 01874 611529.

The Eco Project is funded by WCVA.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

30 Days Wild 2016

A couple of months ago I decided to sign up to the Wildlife Trusts' 30 Days Wild Challenge which asks: "This June can you do something wild every day for a month?" 

The idea is that many of us are so busy with our every day lives that we often forget to connect with nature. And yet nature is around us all the time, whether we live in the town or the countryside there are trees, birds, wildflowers (sometimes called weeds!), creepy-crawlies and other creatures.
It is a well-established fact that being outdoors and close to nature is good for our mental and physical wellbeing. Rather ironic then that on 1 June, Day 1 of the challenge, I found myself indoors looking at fish and other amazing sea creatures! The lumpsuckers at Anglesey Sea Zoo, the lobsters, jelly and star fish, conga eels and sea anenomes had our family party completely hooked on going wild straight at the off! The challenge was well and truly on!

I found out about the challenge originally a couple of months ago when browsing my copy of Natural World, the magazine of the Wildlife Trusts. Receiving this and a local roundup of news is one of the benefits of being a member of the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust which I have enjoyed for many years.

Just by chance, on the afternoon of Day 1, we spotted some clumps of sea spinach or sea beet (a distant relative of cultivated Swiss chard) on the beach by the Menai Strait. We picked some of the vivid green leaves and my niece Andrea later cooked up a delicious "Foraged spinach and filo pastry bake"!

Day 2. The first week started during half-term and we were on holiday with family at Trearddur Bay on Holyhead Island. What better place to start the challenge!

We spent the whole day on a virtually deserted beach on the north-west coast of Anglesey, flying kites, jumping off the dunes, rock pooling and paddling in the sea. Gabriel (11) and Daisy (8) then helped create this massive beach sculpture of a mermaid. Pebbles for the scales, seaweed for the hair, limpet shells for decency and even an old glove for a hand!

Before heading off on our holiday I had printed some of the 30 Days Wild random acts of wildness cards. Over breakfast we browsed these for ideas: not that we were short of inspiration on Anglesey. But great for Day 14 as I type this in the office and it pours down!

So, Day 3: time for a walk. The Isle of Anglesey Coastal Path beckoned. This long distance footpath covers much of the island's coast, and is one of my all-time favourites. Our short stretch along Holyhead Island took us up and down rocky outcrops overlooking the Irish Sea smothered in wild flowers such as sea thrift. Happy days!

Day 4 and sadly our week's stay on Anglesey was at an end. It was another baking day so we called in at Betws y Coed on the return home and dipped our feet in the River Llugwy before making footprints on the rocks.

I signed up for the challenge online, and as I type so have 27,386 people! Part of the fun comes from posting photographs of activities on social media and seeing what exciting and creative things other people have been up to. We used the hashtag #30DaysWild on Twitter to spread word of our involvement.

Luckily Day 5 was a Sunday! Chance to catch up at home before returning to work. And we were greeted on our arrival by the cheerful sight of 5 baby pied flycatchers in one of our bird boxes. The birdcam was a Christmas present three years ago and this is the first time any bird has nested in it. How did they know I'd signed up to 30 Days Wild?

Left: Daddy pied flycatcher pops in to check out the youngsters - probably just a couple of days old and snuggled up tight to keep warm.

I'll be honest - fitting in the challenge around work days is harder, but definitely not impossible. Day 6: back to the busy PAVO Mental Health Information Service... in my breaks I wondered what to choose for the day's challenge.

It was a lovely evening at home and I picked just a few wild flowers from the many in my garden - greater stitchwort, red clover and common vetch - to press under a pile of heavy books. Later I might use them to make cards for friends.

Day 7: the end of week one - we'd made it! I'd stayed in touch with Andrea and family who live in the South of England and they too were still really enjoying the challenge (still are on Day 14 where James Carter's poem "The Tree" is inspiring them).

At lunchtime on Day 7 I went for a walk on a short section of our local long distance walk - the Severn Way. Our office is just a few hundred yards away from the river in Newtown. I found some sycamore seeds (blown off early?) and just played, even when the rain poured down I was still sheltered by the leaf canopy.

That was a week ago now! And the challenge rolls on. We're having fun, being creative, and learning so much stuff - it's brilliant. If you've taken the 30 Days Wild challenge, tell us all about it in the comments section below.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Janet Rogers is awarded an MBE in the Queen's birthday honours list

It's almost two years ago now since Jan Rogers wrote about her experience as a member of the Expert Reference Group reviewing the Mental Health Act (1983) - Code of Practice in England.

This weekend I was delighted to discover that Jan had been awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List 2016 (page 78 of the Prime Minister's List) for her contribution as a member of this Expert Reference Group and to mental health generally. 

Nicky Morris, Ponthafren Association Manager, tells us more:

Janet Rogers is a volunteer and trustee at Ponthafren Association.

Ponthafren provides a unique blend of services to address the mental health needs of its members and the citizens of Montgomeryshire in North Powys. 

Within the core funded service, Ponthafren has developed two main centres in Montgomeryshire, at Newtown and Welshpool, with a satellite provision in Llanidloes in the form of a group which meets weekly on a Thursday. The centres provide a drop-in facility that gives people experiencing mental health difficulties opportunities to find: a ‘safe place’, peer support, crisis support, and access to a wide range of learning and work related opportunities. 

The service provides a Wellness, Learning and Recovery Centre which enables people with mental health problems, families, carers, staff from mental health service providers and people from partner agencies to attend courses. The ethos of these centres is that they are open to everyone and we do not turn away anyone who has an interest in attending. Mental health issues can affect us all at any time; it’s about being able to support people in whatever way they want, at whatever stage of their recovery journey they are at.

In addition to the core service, Ponthafren has developed a range of services including: counselling, outreach support, 1:1 personal support & planning scheme, health and wellbeing, and a young persons' initiative.

Jan Rogers said: “I must admit it was completely unexpected! I’m honoured to be getting an MBE and very grateful to the person who nominated me. I’m passionate about mental health and getting people's voices heard, because it allows me to make a positive difference to people’s lives. The MBE is for the work I did on The Expert Reference Group, headed by Dr Nicola Guy. We met at the head office of the Department of Health in London, this was over a period of about 14 months. The group consisted of people who used services and carers. We reviewed parts of the Mental Health Code of Practice of England. 

"Having experienced mental health issues for a long time, it was a journey within my recovery that I will never forget. I was very honoured to have been chosen to sit on the group. The way that it came about was -  I started volunteering at Ponthafren Association, with the PR group, took an information stall along to a Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations event, from there gave talks to Dyfed Powys Police and other front line services and PAVO put my name forward for the EXPERT REFERENCE GROUP’’.

Peter Bayliss, Chairperson of the Association said: “We are all immensely proud of Jan, her contribution to Ponthafren Association, and the success and significance of her charitable work is inspiring. Importantly, she is a fantastic role model for the next generation, showing clearly how what we do can have a tangible impact on people’s lives.”

Huge congratulations to Jan from all of us here in the mental health team at PAVO!

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Terrible things happen to other people

This week's guest post is from PC Owen Griffiths of Dyfed Powys Police. I met Owen in May during Mental Health Awareness Week, where he spoke to colleagues and partner organisations about his own experience of mental distress. He kindly agreed to share his story with a wider audience. Over to Owen.

Bad things always happened to other people - faces on the news and names in the paper - or so I thought. My life was good and right and nothing was going to change that, of that I was sure. All that changed for me on the 22 May 2004. Let me tell you about it.

My name is Owen Griffiths. I am a 43 year old serving Police officer who currently works in the training department for Dyfed Powys Police. On the 22 May 2004 I was involved in an incident whilst on duty - one which I was very lucky to leave with my life intact. I can clearly remember being quite badly injured and standing at the side of the road. I was bruised and bleeding badly and although these injuries hurt me greatly they were nothing compared to the pain that hit me in my mind.

Before this incident I always believed that “stress” was feeling a little angry or perhaps snapping at people whilst being a little rushed or busy. I could not have been more wrong. The feeling that came upon me at that moment was something far more than this - it was a distinct all prevailing physical sensation that hit me as if I had run into a brick wall. At that moment I can clearly remember thinking “everything has changed”.

The next few days I spent recovering from the physical injuries I had sustained. My body was in pieces but it was my mind that was really hurting. Even though I was told to rest, it’s the last thing I wanted to do. I spent those early days walking around in a daze, my mind a constant stream of negative and anxious thoughts. It was at this time that I realised that I was very ill. No matter how much I tried I couldn’t concentrate on anything other than my own situation and what would become of me.

Because of the nature of the incident I had been involved in there was a procedure and as a Police officer I knew all too well that there would be an investigation into the events of that night and that my colleagues and I would be involved. Looking back now with the benefits of a clear mind and the comfort of hindsight it’s easy to see that I had done nothing wrong and it was just an unfortunate set of circumstances that would have to be looked into. Sadly this new me, a me tortured with racing thoughts, had thoughts that led to catastrophic conclusions with no possible endings other than my own imprisonment for the rest of my days. Again, looking back it seems silly that I even contemplated this happening, but what I didn’t realise is that I was now deep in the troughs of a severe episode of anxiety, one which would not leave me for over a year.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, and all this time was spent in a haze of catastrophic thoughts. Sleep became almost non existent and I staggered from one horrendous fantasy of what my future was to another. I went to my GP on an almost weekly basis begging to be sectioned or given something that would relieve me of the torture that my life had become. Pills made me worse and I started to self harm and even contemplated ending it all but I kept going, unable to talk about anything other than my own problems or think about anything other than my own situation. There would on occasion be small windows of hope, perhaps I would get some good news or be cheered by the friendly words of family and friends. These moments of non worry became an incredible phenomena, a brief time when I felt for just a few moments like the “old me.” This feeling was more than just a lift of mood, more than a feeling of a weight lifted from my shoulder, it was like peering out of a cave on a summer's day. 

These were difficult times for my family. Having always been a big character I think it was difficult for them to accept this new me.  They gave their all to help me and I will be forever grateful. Like the pills that could not cast a spell and make me better I became frustrated and could not see any future for myself. Things looked really bleak. They had to change.

During the early days of my illness I had been referred by the GP to the local psychiatric services. Time had gone by and I had heard nothing (I would eventually get my first appointment almost two years to the day that I was referred). Seeking help but finding little I started to try different ways of helping myself. Of course getting myself out of the gloom and into helping myself was actually the last thing I wanted to do but little did I know it was actually the best thing for me.

Exercise was something I was sort of doing without realising it. Unable to sit and relax I was in the habit of walking miles, usually round in circles in my garden totally preoccupied. But when I started to give myself small goals like walking my dog to the old ruin a few miles from home, or cycling to Tesco to buy a chocolate bar or anything else that I may need, something started.  I would suddenly go, first seconds then minutes and then maybe ten minutes, without thinking of my problems. These little breaks from the pain became a lifesaver. Now I run regularly taking part in my local Parkrun every Saturday morning and being a regular runner in local 10k races. Exercise above any medication became a lifesaver.

Meditation and Body scanning. Helped by the force's occupational health department and counsellor I was steered in the direction of mindfulness and body scanning. This again became and has become an essential part of my day. I found it difficult at first to stop the swirling voices of doom but slowly over time I managed to shut them down for a few seconds at a time. This was priceless in the long run. 

My road to recovery was rocky and long and has taken a few detours along the way. I will be forever grateful to the Police rehabilitation centre in Flint House. The meagre amount deducted from my monthly pay could never hope to pay them back for the help they gave me. Even now I get my moments but it gives me great pleasure to talk to people who are going through a similar thing and sometimes can’t see that there is a way out. I can honestly say that at its worst it was the darkest time of my life. It affected me more than I could possibly imagine but I refuse to let it define who I am. From it I grew, I started to find my love for performing again and lost a lot of the inhibitions that were holding me back in life. Now under the name Owen Staton I can often be found performing and storytelling or acting all over the country. It’s not easy sometimes but Life isn’t a bed of roses and sometimes it's better for it I feel.

Mental illness can sometimes be a gift. It makes you appreciate being well, it helps you realise the battles that people are fighting and makes your victories ever sweeter. Do I wish I had never been ill? Yes I do, but I don’t for one minute regret being the person it made me. I am better and stronger and you can be too.

God Bless


You can follow Owen on Twitter @owenstaton

Many thanks to Owen for sharing his story. We love to hear from our readers, and welcome any comments in the box below.