A conversation that matters: World Mental Health Day

On Monday 10th October, I will be starting a conversation on my Twitter and Helping You Sparkle™ Facebook page about mental health and, in particular, the role of spirituality in mental health

There are lots of different reasons why we suffer with poor mental health, relationships (including Domestic Abuse) and poor sleep to name just two.  In 2004, I experienced almost nine months of depression when I was pregnant with my son – I talk about this in more detail here. The last thing I ever expected was to feel miserable when I was so happy to be pregnant. And that’s the thing about poor mental health – often we don’t see it coming – and before we know it we are gripped.  And it can happen to anyone. 

The research is now suggesting that as many as one in three people will experience poor mental health during their lifetime and statistics around suicide are frightening.  If you or someone you know is affected there are a number of sources available, including Mind and the Samaritans

Other options include CBT and Mindfulness, both tried and tested techniques for improving mental health.  (I’m also running relaxation classes in MK in November and December – take a look). 

To keep up to date on this and other topics involving wellbeing, subscribe to my newsletter. You’ll receive feel-good mojo direct to your inbox along with exclusive access to the members area of the Helping You Sparkle™ website, where you can view free resources on sleep, meditation and much more. 

The elephant in the room: why I will keep talking about things which make people uncomfortable 

Note to the reader: this article discusses domestic abuse and human trafficking

A while back I was standing in a café with a friend, waiting to be served.  The couple in front of us were politely challenging the cashier about the cost of a bread roll. The couple were explaining, previously, the roll included the price of butter; today the cashier was telling them it didn’t. This meant the couple ended up having only one bread roll and butter between them, instead of two, and a bowl of chips (the other cheapest thing on the menu). 

My friend turned to me smirking and said “honestly, who argues over the price of a roll and butter?”. I replied, “this might be their weekly/monthly treat, what if that’s all they can afford?”. He looked mortified and said he hadn’t thought of that. 

To this day, he remembers that moment. He tells me he realised how judgemental he had been and what assumptions he had made, not just then but many times before. How he had lived in what he called a “bubble”, where he assumed everyone had enough money to treat themselves to more than a bread roll with butter, and how he had never considered it was all someone could afford. (Jack Monroe talks beautifully about these assumptions in this article).

This is why I talk about things a lot of people don’t seem to want to know or talk about: to encourage people to have those “aha” moments, where they suspend judgement for a while and ask the question “what if…?”

It’s why when people say to me that “people choose homelessness or poverty”, I ask what if we are all just one decision away from a totally different life? It’s why when people say that “women must be stupid if they choose to stay with a violent partner”, I ask what if their violent partner has threatened to drown their children or pets if she leaves?

Assumptions can be the judgements that take people’s dignity away. They create stigma and prejudice where empathy is what’s required.

A woman once asserted to me that “all people who use Food Banks are alcoholics or on drugs”. I offered a story of an elderly friend (neither using drugs or alcohol) who I had discovered went to a food bank one winter,  because she couldn’t afford to eat and heat her home at the same time. 

Assumptions can be the judgements that take people’s dignity away. They create stigma and prejudice, where empathy is what’s required.

It’s why I talk about subjects that some may prefer to stay taboo, like poverty, racism, Domestic Abuse, homelessness, modern slavery and mental health. And sex work too.

Sex work is complex to discuss when people make assumptions. It is actually mired in misogyny and for many, especially those trafficked, a life they would never choose. The Guardian explains in this report how one in ten 15 year olds in Kenya exchange sex for money to buy sanitary towels.  

In the video above, Juno (Toni) Mac talks about the ways in which different countries approach the subject of sex work and how we should consider what women and men actually want, before deciding what they need. She uses education to encourage people to suspend judgement about what they think they know, and instead spend time with the very people who can tell us what it’s really like. 

That’s a lesson we all need to learn I think, that when we talk about change we must involve those it most affects.

Difficult conversations make people think about change – and that’s uncomfortable.

When I signed up to a life of service to others, I don’t think I realised that being “outspoken” (if that’s what I am) or asking organisations to put people before profit would make me unpopular. But here I am.

Difficult conversations make people think about change – and that’s uncomfortable.

I’ve been called sensitive because I fight so hard for others to be treated as human. Called tenacious because I argue a point until I know it’s been heard. Labelled as boring at gatherings because I like to dig deep about things that matter, and don’t indulge in gossip about the Kardashians – because, well, for me there’s more important work to be done.  I take no pleasure in people’s discomfort when they realise what they’ve said is deeply judgemental or ill-informed. I’m not trying to be righteous, or powerful, or judgemental myself. I’m just trying to give humanity a voice.

I am an educator, an advocate, and I guess all this makes me an activist. If I didn’t stand up or give a platform to those who are underrepresented, I wouldn’t be authentic or speaking my truth, something as a counsellor I encourage in others too.

I won’t always get it right but at least I’m listening and asking the questions. So, where it helps, I will keep putting the elephant in the room. 

If you know someone affected by the topics in this article; here is a list of other links you may find helpful.

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Picture via Leadership Hospitality

Copyright Delphi Ellis – updated 2020

Free Access to Resources

Monday Mojo™ is my regular newsletter which aims to provide feel-good motivation for the week ahead.  

You’ll receive weekly insights straight to your inbox, including inspiration and access to free online resources like ‘The Sparkle Repair Kit™’ and ‘Cultivating a Resilient Mindset’ eGuide, developed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

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Pregnancy Mental Health

Antenatal Depression
In 2004 I established the first ever dedicated resource to the topic of depression in pregnancy.  Since then, the website has had thousands of visitors and I continue to raise awareness of pregnancy mental health, and offering therapeutic services at my private practice in Milton Keynes.  For more information about ante-natal mental health, click here for the Depression in Pregnancy website.

Sign up to Sparkle and receive regular, personalised, positive mojo direct to your inbox, exclusive access to FREE resources in the members area and up to 30% discount on services, subject to availability. 

Workshops Available Nationally

Ask about a range of training and workshops available face to face and online, including managing mental health, healthy sleep and Mindfulness.  Bespoke training is also available to corporate clients nationally. For more information click here or complete the form below.

To  book an event, or send an enquiry call during office hours or complete the form below:

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5 signs it may be time to walk away…

2015/01/img_2299-0.jpgWhen I was single, friends would often suggest online dating was the way to go. I was against it at first because I believed (and still do) that the Universe brings forward the right person at the right time. But having heard success story after success story , I dared to dip my toe in the online water of finding a mate. It’s fair to say I got metaphorically soaking wet, and not in a good way.

The first date took me to Sainsbury. Okay, not the ultimate picture of romance you might think, but I like quirky, so I stuck with it. He then played a game around arranging our next meeting, so that when he eventually asked to see me again and I said no, he got nasty. Strike one.

The next fella, despite saying he was looking for Miss Right, proceeded to tell me during our first meeting that he was seeing as many women as possible because he wanted to get his money’s worth from his online monthly dating subscription. Strike two.

The next date, I liked. A lot. We dated for a while … and then cracks started to appear. Within a month I’d had an email from his girlfriend of several years, stating she was a bit frustrated to discover there was (yet) another woman on the scene. As well as me, there was at least one more she knew about and needless to say, for me, that was strike three and out. I took the decision that whilst it really does work for some people – and I genuinely wish those all the best – there are just times when it’s better to walk away from something – or someone – that’s not working for you.

…the Universe brings forward the right person at the right time

This doesn’t just apply to dating or relationships. You might be struggling with making a decision to leave a job, a hobby or something else which once meant a great deal to you.

Here’s five signs it may be time to walk away:
1) Lack of commitment. It’s so frustrating when someone says they have your best interests at heart but when push comes to shove, you feel disposable. No one wants to feel that way and actually you deserve better than that. If someone is struggling to make a commitment about a date, meeting or even your pay rise, get talking about the impact this is having on you and how you’d like it resolved. If they don’t care about that, you need to ask yourself if the grass may be greener elsewhere.

2) It’s all about money. I once knew a guy who had so much expendable income he genuinely ran out of things to buy each month. He would flash his latest purchases around but soon lost interest and needed another “fix”. These purchases genuinely never brought him lasting happiness. Whilst most of us would love to have spare funds, money really doesn’t bring you peace. If someone is taking control of your money, has an addiction to spending, or if it’s all about the bottom line at work, you may need to take a step back and think how that sits with you, and what positive action you can take.

3) You’re being kept in the dark. Now it’s not always easy to know, but sometimes it really pays to trust your gut. If you have a feeling your partner or your boss is hiding something from you, playing a game or lying, one of the best things you can do is ask them straight. If you’re worried you’re over-reacting, check things out with people you trust. Don’t be afraid to say to someone “I think this is happening” and present them with the evidence as you know it. Ask them for their honest opinion and see what they have to say. If they reach the same conclusion, it may be time to put that elephant in the room if you want to be reassured. (And if they care, they will reassure you.)

4) It gets nasty. Abuse comes in many forms: physical, emotional, psychological, financial and sexual. It happens at work and at home and there’s no real justification for abuse being allowed to continue once you’ve realised that’s what’s going on. If it’s a colleague at work having a dig or someone at home picking holes in what you do and say, it’s time to get help. And if it’s getting really nasty, find yourself a place of safety as soon as possible and involve the professionals who are best placed to help. If you know someone who is being affected by Domestic Violence you may want to take a look at Refuge

5) They don’t appreciate you. As the famous words in Desiderata say, you have a right to be here. That means that what you do, how you feel and what you say all count. And they should count. If someone is repeatedly ignoring you, your concerns and even your accomplishments it’s time to have a think about what they’re bringing to your life. Life is a two way street so don’t be afraid to assert yourself and what you need from any relationship. Decide what’s acceptable (and what’s not) and take positive action to stay on track. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or remove people (and things) from your life that aren’t working for you, especially if nothing changes or it’s causing you pain. (Why not take a look at my article 5 things you should never feel guilty about…)

For me, the circumstances had to be ‘right’, as it turns out with someone I’ve known for more than 20 years, and who was there all along. We each just had to learn some lessons along the way.  It doesn’t have to be complicated and it certainly mustn’t hurt.  You’ll know when the time is right. Until then, look after yourself.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love, for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.
Take kindly to the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann c.1920

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(Copyright Delphi Ellis 2015)

5 things you should never feel guilty about…

2015/01/img_2198.pngAt the age of sixteen, I was marched into the head mistresses office because I had made the decision to leave school, with only a few qualifications behind me.

I have no doubt the headmistress prepared for this meeting and she believed she was about to impart some valuable insight into my future, which would make me think twice about bailing on higher education.

She started the conversation:
“I know you won’t listen to a word I have to say, because you’re one of those sorts of girls…”

Genuinely, to this day I don’t remember another word she said. After that first sentence I switched off. I can only assume that one of those sorts of girls meant free-thinking, standing on my own two feet, and not wanting to be controlled by others’ ideas and expectations of what I should be doing. Don’t get me wrong, education is important. In fact, girls around the world are still fighting for one. But for me, where I was, wasn’t healthy or helping me get where I wanted to be.

That headmistress couldn’t have known that when the time was right I would train as a therapist (something you couldn’t – and at the time of writing still can’t – do under a certain age), or that I would work with a pioneering mental health charity which changes lives for the better. That I would have a successful tv and media career. That I would raise two beautiful, talented, funny and intelligent children. Success should be defined by how many moments of joy we can experience each day, not the car we drive, or the house we live in.

Did I feel guilty and ashamed, that I could be letting the school down, disappointing the headmistress and possibly my parents? Yes. It was a big step.

But as it turns out, I didn’t need to feel guilty at all. So here are five things you should never feel guilty about:
1) Being authentic. Understanding who you truly are is something most people struggle to define. You may describe yourself as a Mother, Son, Husband or Employee but this doesn’t necessarily reveal who you are at your core. What makes you “tick”? What nourishes your soul? When do you get those “glowy” sparkly feelings that make your chest puff up with pride or reward? Often, you will know when something feels “right” or “wrong”. Stay true to your values, follow your gut and talk about the things that matter to you. Don’t feel you have to compromise on them unless that seems fair and reasonable to you.

2) Saying it as you see it. In the job I do, being transparent is the only way to encourage open and honest dialogue. When people are at risk of harming themselves, asking them directly about their intentions can save lives. Being open can extend to all areas of your life, though. People will know where they stand with you if you say it like it is. If you are worrying about something, whatever that may be, it’s okay to talk about it. The people who love you and support you will be happy to reassure you and put your mind at rest. If it’s a constant worry and it won’t go away, explore the possibility that there is an underlying issue – perhaps a trigger from your past or an anxiety about the future – and maybe seek the help of a professional who can unpack this with you in a safe space.

If you are worrying about something, whatever that may be, it’s okay to talk about it. The people who love you and support you will be happy to reassure you and put your mind at rest.

3) Saying no. (Or saying yes.) Smallest words are sometimes the hardest to say. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be said. You have a right to be heard, a right to put your needs ahead of others especially where your health is concerned. Practice saying no (or yes) and if the answer is received badly use the golden question for negotiating a positive outcome – “What can we do about this?”

4) Having time out. If you’ve ever stopped for five minutes to put your feet up, within 90 seconds you’re already thinking about what you’re going to do next or what you could have done with the time you’ve spent resting. Your body and mind need quiet time in order to stay healthy so don’t feel bad about making time to do this. Schedule time in your diary if prioritising down time is proving difficult and really think about what truly relaxes you. Take a warm bath, listen to music, meditate, play golf, sing, go for a walk. Whatever you need to just breathe and “be” – do that.

Your body and mind need quiet time in order to stay healthy so don’t feel bad about making time to do this.

5) Walking away. Creating positive space between you and someone else is healthy, especially if conflict is rising. It doesn’t have to be permanent although of course if a relationship is becoming toxic the elephant in the room needs to be talked about. Consider mediation if it’s getting difficult to stay calm during a tense discussion and always make sure everyone involved has equal time to speak and be heard. Don’t ignore the problem – or the person. Decide what is acceptable to you. If someone has cheated or lied (or hidden something) you have the right to say how you feel about that. Stay focussed on a peaceful outcome though and you’ll never go to war. If you’re going to walk away even if just for five minutes, make it clear that’s what you’re going to do – and what you need. You may not know at the time if it’s permanent but again people who love you will be there for you when you’re ready to talk.

Why not take a look at my article “5 reasons it may be time to walk away

“I don’t believe in guilt, I believe in living on impulse. As long as you never intentionally hurt another person, and don’t judge the people in your life, I think you should live completely free”. Angelina Jolie

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(Copyright Delphi Ellis 2015)

Here’s why I’m in love with this day

I started the day with the sun on my face,
I had dreamt of my nan, someone so full of grace,
As I danced with the day, it held my hand with a smile,
It brought laughter and sunshine and peace, for a while

I spoke kindly and gently to people who grieve
For their lives plagued with illness yet who choose to believe
That despite all their demons, they will get through their pain,
That one day, with some help, they’ll be happy again

My journey then took me to a place filled with hope
That reminds me I’m strong, I can thrive, I can cope,
That despite all the darkness that I sometimes see,
Someone is suffering, far more than me

So I finish this day with a warmth in my heart
For the day left behind me and the one due to start,
For the people who dare to be all they can be,
And the ones who are happy for me just to be me.

Copyright Delphi Ellis 2014

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Where there’s a Will

I met up with a lovely lady last week called Nicki from a firm of solicitors called Machins. We originally met at the Bedfordshire Business Women meeting in November and we promised we’d find time to catch up more about what the other did.

The reason I particularly wanted to chat with Nicki is because her specialist area is Will Making. Having worked with the bereaved for over a decade, I know from my client work that the death of a loved one is just the beginning of what can be a painful journey, often made more complicated by the lack of paperwork – like a Will – to finalise affairs.

Nicki told me that only a third of us have actually written a Will. This means that for two thirds of people in the UK when they eventually die, their loved ones will have to pick up more than just the pieces of their broken hearts. They will have to tangle with all manner of legal processes which could so easily have been avoided if a Will had been in place.

So why do people not make a Will? From experience, I know that:
• Some people think that talking about death is morbid or, worse, tempting fate. The irony is that death is inevitable so whether we talk about it or not it will eventually happen. It’s not morbid to plan for your loved ones for when that time comes to minimise their stress.
• You may think that writing a Will is complicated but when involving a professional it really doesn’t have to be. Solicitors are there to help answer your questions and consider all the arrangements you may not have otherwise thought about. Investigate what options are available to you locally. You may even find, like Machins, they are running a special offer for the month of December.
• Purchasing a Will is the ultimate investment and the cost of writing one shouldn’t stop you from doing it. The peace of mind it can provide you with will be worth every penny.

For more information about celebrating life whilst preparing for death in a practical way visit Dying Matters, an online resource for helping you take the stigma out of the event.

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