A woman from Barry who suffers from anxiety and depression has joined a unique health research initiative in Wales to help fight major diseases, and is urging others to do the same.
26-year-old Stacie-Mai Pemberton has signed up to HealthWise Wales, a flagship study aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of the nation to inform new healthcare treatments in Wales.
It is the first large-scale survey in Wales to build a picture of the health of the nation, using detailed health information gathered from people of all ages to help inform future health service planning.
People aged 16 and over and living in Wales are asked to complete short questionnaires every six months as part of the project, which is led by Cardiff University and backed by the Welsh Government.
Once registered, participants are then invited to help inform relevant health research on specific conditions, their management and treatment.
Stacie-Mai, who works as a peer mentor for Welsh mental health charity Hafal, began to suffer from anxiety and depression when doctors struggled to diagnose her appendicitis.
This, combined with previous insight into different healthcare issues gained while working for the Welsh Ambulance Service, made Stacie-Mai sign up to HealthWise Wales.
She said: "My appendicitis wasn't a textbook case of the illness, so when I went to the doctors with complaints they struggled to diagnose my illness. I was upset and frustrated and developed depression and anxiety. I was finally diagnosed and operated on, and my appendicitis cured, but I felt very mentally fragile.
"Supporting people who suffer from mental health issues at Hafal has meant that I've realised things about my own mental health too. I know now, for example, that there were also more long-term reasons for my depression and anxiety, aside from the appendicitis.
"Trauma from my early childhood, such as losing a parent, have definitely contributed to my mental health issues. Knowledge and education on mental health is vital, which is why I feel so passionate about improving the NHS by supporting initiatives like HealthWise Wales.
"The NHS is a great service, but there is still room for improvement. For this reason, I am committed to initiatives like HealthWise Wales that strive to paint a clearer picture of the changes that need to be made to improve the state of healthcare in Wales, and I'd urge others to do the same."