I came to the UK seeking asylum four years ago. I was 25 at the time. I lived in Ethiopia before moving here, working in a plastic factory. I wanted to move to the UK because of the corruption in my country. A lot of people went to prison and there was no freedom. I felt like I had to seek asylum.

I went to the Home Office who placed me in a hostel where I lived with men and women. People I’d never met before but we were all waiting to find out if we could stay in the UK. I heard sad stories about people who had crossed the sea to come here and lost friends along the way. It was heart breaking. People do not have a choice but to leave their country, even at the cost of human life.

I spent about 4 or 5 months in the hostel. I felt scared a lot of the time and couldn’t sleep properly. I became unwell before coming to Cardiff. I did not realise at the time but I have Bipolar Disorder. One evening at the hostel, I became very upset and aggressive. The manager called an ambulance for me and I was taken to hospital. I felt very frightened and confused, like I was lost.

I moved to Cardiff where I stayed in another hostel for asylum seekers. I then moved to a women’s accommodation where I stayed for about a year but spent a lot of time in hospital because of my mental health. I never believed I had mental health problems. People from my community would tell me I had the devil inside me and that I had to go to church.

I went to see a man in London who said he was a prophet and could cast the devil out of me. I now think he took advantage of me because he filmed me with everyone praying around me. I could not control myself at the time and was very ill but he put the video of me on social media and a TV channel in Ethiopia. He made his business from me.

I believe everyone has a faith and different religions but to say to someone with mental health issues ‘I have a cure…’ is wrong. He makes me angry because I believed him and wanted the cure, which is normal but why did someone have to video a crisis. I was ill and needed help. Some of my friends and family from back home saw the video and contacted me. I felt so embarrassed. I did not know what to say. People back home do not understand mental health problems so I am glad I am in the UK where there is support around me.

When the Home Office gave me permission to stay in the UK, I became homeless. Up until then the Home Office paid for my accommodation so I was given 28 days to find somewhere else to live. I went to live in a woman only accommodation with Llamau.

I felt worried about moving there at first because of the stigma I had received from other people about my mental health. When I moved in I went into the kitchen and started cooking some Ethiopian food. I felt worried that because of the smells the others would not like me and accept me but one woman asked if she could try some of the food and we ended up having lunch together. This made me feel happy because I was accepted.

There was no stigma around my mental health living with the other women at the accommodation. I made friends there because there is a better understanding of mental health issues. My Support Workers were very supportive and helped me with college and understanding my mental health condition.

It was like a home there. We were able to learn how to cook, made jewellery, and did arts and crafts together. I went on a course and was given a certificate and some Time Credits to go horse riding. That was a nice experience.

I feel safe now and I would not want another woman to go through what I did. When I lived in the hostels there were people around me who used to take drugs and I don’t want to be around that again. I am proud that I can now talk about my mental health without feeling embarrassed.