Twenty-five year old Justine Aplin from West Swindon was diagnosed two years ago with bipolar disorder, after a ten year struggle with GPs to refer her to the mental health team. Two years on she has turned her life around, and is now keen to help other young people who may be feeling as helpless as she once did.
Explaining her ultimate ambition to inspire others to take control of their lives, Justine said: “There isn’t enough mental health advice for young people. It’s alright reading leaflets but there’s nobody sharing their personal experience about the issues. So I decided to start writing a blog and using Twitter to reach out to other young people. If anyone reads my feeds and takes one piece of advice I’ll feel as if it’s worked.”
Justine began to struggle with mental health aged 15, though it took eight years before she was properly diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She said: “It wasn’t until I was telling everyone I was famous that the GPs did anything. I stayed awake for a whole week, then crashed out. When it got really bad I couldn’t leave the house, and that went on for about two years.”
Following her diagnosis Justine was referred to the mental health team for a ten week course. She continues on medication, and enrolled on the Prince’s Trust TEAM programme in the Spring, which led her to her current role as a volunteer with Wizard Café on Eastcott Hill.
Describing what has made the biggest difference for her, Justine said: “Information, medication and opportunities are all great, but you need a willingness to help yourself too.
“One day I just thought, I can either be my diagnosis, or I can be Justine. Breaking the pattern of thought about who I wanted to be and making that choice was key. After all everyone has the right to a good quality of life.”