John Johansson, Norberg, Sweden

I was born and raised in an actively religious family and this had a significant influence on my life. As a child I found it difficult to develop meaningful relationships due to the physical distance between myself and my friends, which meant that we could not see each other regularly. I had very little support from my family around my emotional needs and I suffered with low self-esteem. I felt misunderstood and bullied by others; was often described as negative and found it difficult to stand up for myself. I was treated badly by those who were close to me, who showed no understanding of my needs. Looking back, I recognise that as a child I never really had any opinions of my own. I adjusted myself and life to enable me to fit in and feel a part of the crowd. I felt so low and isolated at times that all I wanted to do was disappear, and at my lowest point I just wanted to die.

It wasn’t until I was in my late 20s that things started to change for me. At this time I started to develop supportive connections with others and cut my ties with those people who were not real friends. Life today is very different and this is due to the positive choices and changes I have made. I started to put myself first and learnt to say no to the things that I didn’t want, and the things that make me feel bad. I now have a lot of loving friends and have developed connections with people who do not judge me. These people accept me for who I am and accept the challenges that I face with my mental health.

Through my connections with ‘Fountain House’, a service dedicated to supporting the recovery of people with mental health issues, I have managed to turn my life around. I now have very close friends with who I can share my experiences and talk to about the difficult times in my life. Being able to talk with others is crucial for me and is really beneficial to my mental wellbeing. In addition to this I now participate in meaningful activities in my life such as studying full time, working part time as a taxi driver, socialising with friends, playing guitar and singing in my local choir.

As for my future, this now seems brighter than ever. I have changed my life beyond belief within the last year, in more ways than I ever could have imagined and it just continues to improve all the time. I want people to hear my story and to know that what-ever situation someone is in; however bad life may feel, it can change for the better by making the right choices. If we choose to die, there is no chance to improve life. My message to those who struggle with their mental wellbeing is that whilst you are alive there is ALWAYS ‘Hope’. You may at times need support to see this but hope is there.