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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
Lindsay was an American expat who found it liberating to be able to talk about mental health issues with an understanding community in China. Together, they were empowered to share their stories on the Touch Beijing radio show October last year.
Xiaojie and Lindsay on the Touch Beijing International radio show
CandleX is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of and provide English speakers in Beijing with psychosocial support for mental health conditions. We are committed to offering a safe space where all those affected by mental health conditions are acknowledged, accepted, and supported. Our Mental Health Support Group began in 2015 as one of CandleX’s main psychosocial support programs, and it continues to run to date. Every two weeks, participants of all ages with various mental health conditions meet to share their stories and find support through their peers. In these confidential gatherings, we also provide mental health education to participants and their loved ones to increase understanding of their conditions. Through the peer group meetings, our goal is to not only foster psychosocial support for individuals, but to also help participants become their own advocates. We do this by helping them navigate the world with the tools they learn from our support group. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have expanded our in-person groups to online meetings as well. Here’s a quick breakdown of the demographics of those we served during the first three years:
Our 3rd year report, at a glance
Our program has provided support for over 100 people since its inauguration, positively impacting the participants as well as the community around us. We hope to continue this effort and offer support to those in need. We believe this is especially necessary during the pandemic, as social isolation, distance from loved ones and the economic downturn have greatly increased stress levels in our lives. To maintain the group meetings, we need your help.
Our fundraising goal is to raise $10,000, which will help us run our mental health support group sessions for 2021. It will also help us develop our capacities to offer one-on-one coaching, facilitate training and increase public awareness through the media, including social media and TV. We also plan to organize community engagement events, such as suicide prevention panels, talks and workshops, as well as increase publicity so we can reach out to more people in need. We also intend to create opportunities for participants to share their stories in news journals and community events, in addition to general logistics such as securing a safe and confidential location, where group meetings are held in person.
We are highly regarded in Beijing and the surrounding areas. Psychologists from International Hospital in Beijing have referred many of their patients to our support group. We have also appeared in different news journals and partnered with several organizations in the past, including:
We thank you for your generous donations. Your support, big or small, will allow us to continue to provide services for people with mental illnesses all over the world!
Are you or a friend in a Crisis?
Your questions on mental health | CandleX Classroom
Depression stories from our community members (both adults and teens)
CandleX Column | Community Writing
A CandleX production on Depression
CandleX Wechat Groups
all ages, add our admin: niama_elazzab
for 15-22 year old, add our admin: amaraprenderyya
Peer Support Group