This is a guest post from Alana Lukens, the founder of the Empowerment Project, a platform that explores mental health, human rights and diversity. You can find the Empowerment Project on Instagram @empowerment_p.r.o.j.e.c.t

My name is Alana and I am a 20 year old from the West coast of America. I’ve moved to England on my own to study social work and have a little over a year until I’ll be qualified.

At the moment, I can’t get home to my family due to COVID-19. I have two wonderful moms. I was adopted from India at the age of one with a great sister and have been brought up in the US. I am a singer-songwriter, poet, pianist, wellbeing and human rights advocate, the list goes on.

My journey with mental health has been lengthy for me. At 16, I had severe suicidal ideation and that was a huge part of my high school experience. It was four of the toughest years of my life. My anxiety was through the roof, I lacked self-confidence, I was unsure of my identity and what I wanted to do or be. I felt the pressure of being a student and that I had to be perfect. I was given medication for depression and still take it now.

This being said, I don’t let those four years define me or who I am. My inspiration for creating the Empowerment Project has been my journey. Combining world awareness, and diversity along with mindful living has inspired me to build this platform for all.  I have good and bad days just like everyone and sometimes it’s hard to even stand on your own; but knowing that so many people are here to help you makes the weight on your shoulders seem a bit lighter.

I am far from perfect, and I think it’s healthy to recognise that. I’ve made mistakes, and not always been proud of who I am, but it’s about moving forward isn’t it? It’s about believing in yourself enough to push through the muck and to love yourself enough to pick yourself up again. It’s an ongoing battle, and there isn’t one thing that can make mental illness magically disappear.

There are tools that can assist us with our wellbeing, self-care, mental health upkeep and communication in order to make those bad days a bit easier. I am an advocate of inclusivity. Everyone has a story and everyone has something important to say. Don’t minimise your pain and hesitate to reach out, because there are so many that want to listen, help and to provide support to you!

I run an Instagram support group known as the Empowerment Project. And of course, if you, or anyone you know is struggling with suicidal ideation please reach out to PAPYRUS’s HOPELINEUK.

If you’re 35 and under and struggling with thoughts of suicide, or you’re worried for someone who is, HOPELINEUK is here for you. Call 0800 068 4141, text 07860039967, or email pat@papyrus-uk.org

Photo by Vonecia Carswell on Unsplash

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