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When Marco successfully returned to China in 2014, he was confronted with a challenge: to restart his life after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder – the one that forced him to leave China six months previously. During this time, he found inspiration and consolation from philosophy and a new appreciation for astronomy, forming the humble but lofty goal of trying “to understand [his] own place in the universe, and to try in some small way to be a positive force within it." But ultimately, what helped him most was the ability to build a strong social network away from home. This included many of the friends he first met in CandleX’s Mental Health Support Group. Even when experiencing recurrent struggles, Marco says those around him “knew what was going on, having previously been exposed to those aforementioned difficulties.” He adds: “There was nowhere to hide, and no point in hiding. I knew there were those who I could not only trust, but trust to not pass judgment.”
Marco modeling for our Moodlab project, a photography series that explores the inner world of bipolar disorder
Not only did Marco gain support from the group, he also became empowered to become a mental health advocate – for himself and others. Over the past few years, Marco has shared his own story on our WeChat platform; facilitated our support group in Beijing; and participated in many events to raise awareness, including with the British Club and Moishe House. Marco has also helped raise funds for CandleX, including for our second anniversary celebration. He continues to be active in the community, despite moving to another city.
Marco speaking with an attendee at a bipolar art show, sponsored by the British Club
Just like Marco, many others have found ways to become self-sufficient and make an impact in the community, with some deciding to contribute to CandleX. One of our early members, Alice, learned to accept her diagnosis of bipolar disorder and changed her outlook of life through connecting with peers in the CandleX Mental Health Support Group. She helped organize several fundraising events for CandleX as well as several other mental health organizations. She has also participated in numerous events to raise awareness of suicide prevention in Beijing.
Alice, Xiaojie and the hosts of Touch Beijing International radio show