Style, Stormont, and support

Published Monday, 11 March 2013
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Stormont is more politics than posing, but this week fashion and fundraising join together at Parliament Buildings to celebrate the positive influence catwalks can have on mental health.

Style at Stormont on Wednesday evening will showcase spring/summer 2013 collections from House of Fraser and one local blogger will share how fashion has helped her deal with depression.

Gemma-Louise Bond, 21, was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - including difficulty sleeping and flashbacks - following a hip replacement when she was 19.

"I was used to being in pain and that becomes a very normal part of your life," she explained.

"Then to wake up one day and to have a hip replacement and everything be back to how it was five years ago is very traumatic. Your life has completely changed and you're a different person."

The QUB student found it hard to adjust and felt very down after the operation, and soon realised it was more than just post-surgery grogginess.

"I was feeling really low all the time and I realised this wasn’t right, it wasn’t just the operation, it wasn’t just the medication," she explained.

But with the help of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and writing in her fashion and lifestyle blog, That Belfast Girl, Gemma-Louise feels her life is getting back on track.

"I started a blog a month before my hip replacement and it was a way to distract me from what was about to happen.

"I assumed once the operation was over and I was fine again that I would stop blogging," she said.

Style at Stormont.

But Gemma-Louise found the project therapeutic and discovered a new support system in other online writers across Northern Ireland, especially the Fashion and Beauty Bloggers NI (FABB) network.

"People may not implicitly know what's going on but they're such great moral support. When you're really, really down you can put your energy into blogging and get great feedback online," she explained.

"It keeps my morale up and gives me a great focus."

I’m someone who has depression but is also upbeat and getting on with their life.

Gemma-Louise Bond

The Style at Stormont event run by Action Mental Health will be the first time Gemma-Louise has spoken publicly about her issues with depression.

"It will be very interesting to stand up in a room of people, some of them know me, some don't, and say 'I'm a really confident outgoing person but I also have depression'," she explained.

"But if someone listens to me speaking and either sees something in themselves that they haven't realised has been going on, or thinks about a family member or friend and it helps them, that's exactly what I'm there for."

Style at Stormont marks Action Mental Health's term as the NI Assembly Commission's inaugural Charity of the Year.

They've been helping people to recover from the effects of mental ill-health since 1963, and any money raised from Wednesday's event will help their support services and outreach work across Northern Ireland.

With a drinks reception, front row seats and entertainment by James Huish, tickets to the glamorous show are £25.
© UTV News
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Sara Neill
Sara Neill

Sara Neill joined UTV's Webteam as an online journalist in 2011, previously having worked for radio and print outlets.

She has covered a range of topics, from the Saville Report to the Royal Wedding or new sounds on Northern Ireland's music scene and fashion shows.

In her spare time, she likes to read poetry and 1960s American literature and blog about all things makeup, hair and beauty.

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