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mental health

Whether it's your best friend, a close family member or your favourite hairdresser, there's nothing like a good chat to lift your spirits and as it turns out, those bonds could have a huge effect on our mental and physical health.

According to The Irish Independent, a number of studies carried out over the past 40 years have indicated that good social relationships may contribute to a reduction in abdominal obesity, better lung function and even a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

Some researchers even claim that our relationships could be more important than diet and exercise when it comes to overall health and wellbeing.

A 2010 study carried out at Brigham Young University found that having a good network of friends and family members could improve a person's odds of survival by up to 50 per cent.

Participants were asked a number of questions about their social lives, including the quality of relationships with friends, family, partners and colleagues.

Based on their answers, the women were then divided into three groups – 'socially isolated', 'moderately integrated' and 'socially integrated'.

20 years later, researchers checked in with the participants and found that the 'socially integrated' women were significantly less likely to have passed away from their battle with breast cancer than those who were deemed 'socially isolated'.

The risk of reoccurrence was also greatly reduced in women who said they has a quality network of friends. 

Head researcher, Candyce H Kroenke, said: "It is well established that women who have more social ties generally, including those with breast cancer, have a lower risk of death overall."

"Our findings demonstrate the beneficial influence of women's social ties on breast cancer, including recurrence and breast cancer death."

What's more, an earlier study carried out by the same team, found that laughing and enjoying quality time with friends could help patients deal with some of the physical symptoms of cancer.  

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We've always suspected it, but now scientists have confirmed that dog owners are more likely to have better cardiovascular health.

The research was published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings and involved 1,769 people between 25 to 64-years-old, living in Brno in the Czech Republic.

Each participant had to provide information on their BMI, diet, physical activity levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, if they smoked or not and their fasting blood sugar levels.

42 percent of the candidates owned a pet of some sort, with 24 percent of people owning a dog and 17.9 percent owning another animal.

The American Heart Association heart score system test was used, looking at seven changeable risk factors of heart health.

Dog owners were more likely to exercise, have an ideal diet and blood glucose level than those who didn't, but they were more likely to smoke for some reason. They still scored better overall for cardiovascular health, however.

The study authors cautioned: "The higher smoking rates among dog ownership attenuates the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health."

Existing evidence links dog ownership to better mental and physical health, so it makes total sense.

Study co-author Andrea Maugeri commented in a statement: "In general, people who owned any pet were more likely to report more physical activity, better diet and blood sugar at ideal level.

"The greatest benefits from having a pet were for those who owned a dog, independent of their age, sex and education level."

Research claims that getting a pooch could be a useful way to boost heart health, and an important way to tackle the prevalence of heart disease.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the US alone, causing one-in-four deaths each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Senior investigator Francisco Lopez-Jimenez stated that owning dogs has previously been linked to better mental health and feeling less lonely, both of which are assumed to decrease the risk of heart attacks.

One study published last year in the journal BMC Psychiatry, which examined 17 existing papers concluded having a pet could help the symptoms of mental illness.

Philippa Hobson, senior cardiac nurse for the British Heart Foundation, told Newsweek: "Whether you're a pet-owner or not, physical activity can benefit your heart in lots of different ways.

"Just spending 10 minutes a day walking around the block is good for your heart health."

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Opening up about mental health struggles is quite a nerve wrecking thing because there are still so many people who will judge you and your issues.

We have made major strides in breaking the stigma surrounding mental health in recent years and that is thanks to the plethora of people who proudly share their own stories and experiences.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Authors like Matt Haig, Claire Eastham and Bryony Gordon have helped encouraged their readers to be more open about mental health because there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Millions of us struggle with our mental health, even celebrities like Sam Smith, Emilia Clarke and Naomi Campbell do, who are amongst a huge group of stars who will share their personal stories in Scarlett Curtis’s book It’s Not OK to Feel Blue (and other lies).

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The writer’s second book will be published by Penguin Hardback on October 3, 2019. 75 empowering figures will share what mental health means to them in the collection of essays.

Contributors include Elizabeth Day, Davina McCall, Simon Amstell, Miranda Hart, Lena Dunham, Gemma Styles, Jessie Cave, Ben Platt, Dawn O’ Porter, Adam Kay and Martha Lane Fox.

The Feminists Don’t Wear Pink author said, “I think more than anything I made this book for myself. Not for me now but for 19-year-old me. The me that decided that she didn’t want to be alive anymore. The me that felt so alone. The me that felt so ashamed.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Scarlett added, “All the royalties are going to the INCREDIBLE @giveusashoutinsta – the UK’s first 24/7 crisis text line in partnership with Sussex Royal.”

You can pre order your copy here.

Feature Image: Instagram/scarcurtis

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Some of us can live freely without worrying about the location of our mobile phones, and others can't.

Many of us know the sensation of an empty pocket leading to the terrifying feeling of loss when you can't find your phone, many of us don't. 

For certain people, the thought of not knowing where your phone is or not having it on your person at all times can cause genuine fear and anxiety. The scientific word for this is nomophobia.

If you get the feeling of ice cold dread just imagining the absence of your phone, you may be experiencing this 21st century phobia.

The phrase is an abbreviation for ‘no-mobile-phone phobia’, coined back in 2008 during a study of anxieties experienced by mobile phone users by the Post Office (random?).

Bear in mind that this study is now 11-years-old, but it discovered that 53 percent of phone users in the UK are anxious when they "lose their mobile phone, run out of battery, or have no network coverage".

The phobia is set to be among the largest non-drug addictions of this century, which is staggering.

We can now seemingly carry our entire lives with us in our pocket, whether it's for work, research, medical, business, pleasure, friendship, shopping, maps or just general communication.

While this is incredible advancement, it also means that we've grown to rely on the devices, to the point where some of us even feel chained to them.

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More recently, a 2017 YouGov study revealing that 38 percent of teenagers felt they couldn’t last a single day without their smartphone on them.

Nomophobia isn’t currently in the edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, but has been proposed as a ‘specific phobia’. It's essentially synonymous with smartphone addiction.

The symptoms of nomophobia are similar to that of other addictions, from dependency to a growing panic psychologically when you're without it for too long, sweating, shaking and heart palpitations.

nyc notice me GIF by ADWEEK

Addictive behaviour can take it's toll when it comes to emotional and psychological ramifications; low self-esteem, constantly seeking reassurance from phones with social media engagement and a low sense of self-worth.

Treatments include EMDR and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and more scientifically-backed options. Professional help is out there when it comes to nomophobia, believe it or not.

Set yourself small goals, like leaving your phone farther away in terms of proximity and for longer periods. Try giving it to somebody to take care of, a trusted friend or family member.

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Log out of social media apps, or even just turn the notifications off. Silence is key, but it's important for you to realise that social media silence doesn't mean loneliness and isolation. 

Aim for more human connection, and give yourself breaks from technology by going on walks with friends or going for dinner with family. It's all about reliance and feeling okay with being totally alone.

Hypnotherapy is also becoming an increasingly common way to treat addiction, and acupuncture. Nomophobia is a totally irrational fear, seeing as we've survived without phones before and can do it again.

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Eleanor Segall has penned a book about what it is really like to live with bipolar disorder. The inspirational author’s book Bring Me To Light is bound to open your eyes about a disorder that affects so many people across the globe.

Eleanor spoke to Shemazing about mental illness, becoming a published author and opening up about her personal struggles and being diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 16.

Having dreamed of being a writer since she was a kid, seeing her book for sale is a true pinch me moment for Eleanor. “I couldn't dream that I would write a book of my life story or its circumstances at 31. When I was ill in 2014, I knew I wanted to share my story to help people with bipolar disorder and mental health conditions. Helping others is the reason I have written the book and why I kept going with it. I want to break the stigma bipolar and particularly psychosis has. It is such an honour to be published and Trigger seemed like the perfect home for my book.”

In her book, Eleanor opens up about extremely personal moments in her life, including the manic episode that led to her being sectioned in 2014. The writer said being so open was the toughest part of the writing process, but she knows these stories will educate readers about mental illnesses.

“Mental illness can happen to anyone (there is no stereotype) and that it is not anyone's fault. I hope [the book] helps people in their own recovery, knowing you can achieve and recover despite chronic mental illness and you can do the things you want to do, even if its harder to do at times.

Eleanor stressed, “You can be brought to light again after darkness- illness or difficulty. Recovery is possible and you should never give up hope.”

One of the most difficult moments in Eleanor’s life was when she experienced mania and psychosis, “I was sectioned in 2014. I had to be restrained and injected with haloperidol (anti psychotic med) against my will, to calm me down. Living on a ward for four months wasn’t easy as everyone was so ill but it has all made me who I am and made me reach to be as well as possible.”

Despite the lows, Eleanor has always remained hopeful about her recovery, stressing that it is more than possible.

“Bipolar disorder is a chronic, serious and life threatening condition that can run in families but it also makes us more creative and determined to try harder. 

“Having bipolar is not the end if it can be managed well, but it does cause suicidal ideation and mania or hypomania and it can be a difficult one to treat at times. Never forget that recovery is possible.”

You can read more about Eleanor’s personal story in her debut novel Bring Me To Light. 

Bring Me To Light by Eleanor Segall is published on November 5. The eye-opening and beautifully honest read will become one of the most beloved books of Winter 2019.

Bring Me To Light is published by Trigger Publishing, part of the Shaw Mind Foundation.

You can order a copy here.

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It has long been claimed that flowers have a therapeutic effect on those who surround themselves with them, but science had yet to truly back it up.

Research conducted by the American Society For Horticulture Science has recently revealed that fresh flowers can have the ability to ease feelings of anxiety, and even physical pain. 

The study evaluated whether or not plants have an influence on surgical patients, and we're pretty surprised by these results. 90 participants were split into rooms with plants or without, and those with foliage feelings have different outcomes.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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According to the research, those who were exposed to flowers had lower heart rates and blood pressure, decreased ratings of fatigue, anxiety and pain, and harboured more positive feelings and higher satisfaction about their rooms.

It's now suggested that flowers should be 'complementary medicine' for recovering patients. It's time to click your fingers and insist that a crowd of men throw a bouquet at you every few minutes…for health reasons.

Flowers are often the go-to gift for celebrating milestones, or for offering messages of hope or condolences. Good old science has just given us the opportunity to buy our own blooms, for self-care.

According to a study published in Complementary Therapies In Medicine, bouquets of flowers can reduce our stress levels.

The researchers gave college-age women a fresh vase of roses for their accommodation, and the subjects felt more relaxed than they did before. Whether it's psycho-somatic, or true therapy, it seems to work.

It seems like an easy breezy way to experience multiple health benefits while keeping your home aesthetically lush. Apparently, indoor plants and gardening come with health advantages similar to gym workouts.

We like this, we like this A LOT.

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People who open up about their mental health struggles are a true inspiration. Speaking about those raw and brutal disorders can feel impossible, but talking about them is one of the best ways to beat the stigma.

One person who knows this all too well is writer Eleanor Segall, who has penned a book about her life with Bipolar 1 disorder.

Her book Bring Me To Light tells the true story of how Eleanor got her life back on track and turned a devastating illness into a life-changing opportunity to do good.

In Bring Me To Light, we first meet Eleanor as her life was beginning. She had everything going for her; an aspiring actress and a family girl, she never thought her future would be derailed by mental illness. 

After a spate of depressive and manic episodes, panic attacks and social anxiety, Eleanor found herself in The Priory at the age of 16.

The diagnosis? Bipolar I disorder.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Eleanor Segall  (@eleanorsegall) on

But Eleanor didn’t let it stop her for long. Now a successful blogger, journalist, and pillar of the mental health and Jewish communities, she writes about finding recovery and hope after being unwell. Her story of picking herself back up again and surviving against the odds will resonate with many – and it can help you find that light in the darkness too.

Eleanor Segall is a freelance writer and journalist, mental health blogger and advocate. She has lived with bipolar and anxiety disorders since her diagnosis at just 16-years-old. Her mission is to increase understanding and end the stigma around mental illness. 

Eleanor blogs for mental health charities such as Time to Change, Mind and SANE, and has written for publications including Metro.co.uk, The Telegraph, Glamour and Happiful Magazine and Happiful.com. 

Her own blog, Be Ur Own Light, was recently listed as a Top 10 UK Mental health blog by Vuelio. Eleanor is a frequent radio guest-speaker on mental health, and has recorded several podcasts. Additionally, she volunteers with the charity Jami, the (Jewish Association of Mental Illness) in London.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Eleanor Segall  (@eleanorsegall) on

Bring Me To Light by Eleanor Segall is published on November 5. The eye-opening and beautifully honest read will become one of the most beloved books of Winter 2019.

Bring Me To Light is published by Trigger Publishing, part of the Shaw Mind Foundation.

You can order a copy here.

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Nearly two-in-five third-level students are experiencing serious levels of anxiety and depression as a result of stress, a new survey has revealed.

The newly published 'Report on Student Mental Health in Third-Level Education' was compiled by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), with the support of the HSE Mental Health and the National Office for Suicide Prevention.

Almost one-third of students have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, with the results painting a worrying picture of the extent of pressures and struggles on the shoulders of Irish students.

The statistics examined the occurrence of mental health distress and ill health among third-level students and the availability and use of mental health support service for young people.

Multiple factors influence depression and anxiety, and women were found to be more likely to suffer anxiety than men. Non-binary students had the highest levels of severe anxiety.

The survey, which was conducted in 2018, was open to students in every college, North and in the Republic, and most of the respondents were undergraduates aged between 18 and 24-years-old.

74 percent of participants were female, and experiences varied largely depending on the type of college attended, the area of study and whether it was inside or outside of Dublin.

One in five of those surveyed identified as LGBTQ+ and just over 1 percent identified as transgender. 38 percent are experiencing extremely severe levels of anxiety, alarmingly.

30 percent of people are reporting suffering from depression and 17 percent are experiencing stress. Almost one-third reported that they had a formal mental health difficulty which was diagnosed.

One of the most distressing points is that 21 percent of participants did not have someone to talk to about personal and emotional difficulties. Free on-campus counselling is imperative for students.

Students were found to use on and off-campus services to aid their mental health, and the student union made 35 percent of students aware of support services. 

The study had a large response of 3,340 students, but the findings may not be a full picture of the student population.

Employment during college was also found to affect students' ability to socialise with their classmates, and those involved in activities outside of coursework had improved mental health.

USI president Lorna Fitzpatrick in Trinity College Dublin said students had provided a vast amount of vital data which would be used to improve mental health services at third level for everyone.

Numerous institutions were found to be problematic in terms of the quality of care offered to students, and a quality assurance tool must be made to ensure consistency between institutions.

Transitioning from secondary school to college is a huge step for all students, and comes at a time when they are most at risk of developing mental health difficulties.

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Can you really learn how to be happy? Well, Ivy-League University Yale certainly thinks so.

The world-famous American college created a course called 'Psychology and the Good Life' which became the most popular class in the course's history last year, according to Stylist.

The happiness class is now open to everyone online, and we're more than a little bit tempted to get in on this magic. The age-old question of the secret to happiness has been circulating for centuries.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Sparking joy can happen through a variety of different mindsets and methods. For some of us, all we need is a kickass Spotify playlist or a trip to the dancefloor with our friends, while others need to be outdoors and delete all of their social media accounts. To each their own.

The art of happiness is an art form that we can only pursue by switching up our daily routines, and getting in on those feel-good vibes. Yale is here to help us get closer to the sacred state of mind.

Yale has been around for 317 years, and still the happiness class is by far it's most popular course to ever be taught. Last year, the class debuted to global attention when 1,200 students (nearly a quarter of Yale's undergrad student body) enrolled in the course, led by psychology Professor Laurie Santos.

'Psychology and the Good Life' was created in direct response to skyrocketing levels of student stress, anxiety and depression at Yale and teaches practical advice about finding the fight career path, satisfying pursuits and how to cultivate happiness in our everyday lives.

Santos has since created an extended version of the course; The Science Of Well-Being, filmed in her own house, which can be taken online for free.

Absolutely anyone can enroll, so why not try it? It's got a varied curriculum that explores topics including misconceptions about happiness, why our expectations around joy are so low, how to overcome our inner biases, activities that have been proven to boost satisfaction, and how to put strategies into practice.

The course description states; “The purpose of the course is to not only learn what psychological research says about what makes us happy but also to put those strategies into practice,” the course description reads.

Don't stress if academia isn't your background and there are no compulsory texts. If you're feeling overwhelmed at the thought of studying, don't be; these deadlines are flexible and there are no comebacks if you miss one. Go at your own pace.

They also give you the chance to communicate with your classmates, and carry out video lectures, quizzes and 'rewirement' activities for building healthier habits.

The Science Of Well-Being is available for free on Coursera, audited for free or carried out with certification for €44.20. The pursuit of happiness doesn't seem so impossible now, does it?

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WW, formerly known as WeightWatchers, launched a diet and nutrition app marketed at children and adolescents this week and have faced immense backlash since.

Kurbo by WW is a free programme that claims to help eight-year-olds to 17-year-olds "build healthy habits", and lose weight through personalised coaching and food tracking.

The app's "traffic light" diet approach categorises foods as red, yellow and green (red being the most process, sugar-filled, yellow being lean protein and pasta and green being fruit and veg).

Kurbo by WW was developed at Stanford University, and WW have defended their programme by stating the app is backed by safe scientific studies. 

CEO of WW, Mindy Grossman, said; "To change the health trajectory of the world, we have a tremendous opportunity, but also a responsibility, to help kids, teens and families adopt healthy habits."

Many critics of the app insist that encouraging kids and teenagers to diet can perpetuate an unhealthy and dangerous mindset.

Fatphobic cultural messaging around dieting has led to a massive issue surrounding eating disorders and mental health among youth.

In an article published in Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics in 2015, researchers found that because adolescence is such an important time for body image development, 12-to-18-year-olds with a negative perception of their body or weight are more likely to develop eating disorders or dysfunctional exercise habits.

Of course, obesity can be linked to numerous health concerns but disordered eating and mental health conditions among adolescent is reportedly more likely to pose a dangerous risk than paediatric obesity.

35-to-37 percent of adolescent girls in the US alone report using unhealthy weight loss measures, according to the National Eating Disorder Association. These methods include fasting, smoking, taking laxatives and 'skinny teas', skipping meals and even vomiting.

One-in-three adolescents in the UK alone reported experiencing mental health issues, according to a troubling survey by the charity Action for Children. 

More than 12 percent of adolescents in the US are affected by depression every year. 

Many people on social media were furious about the Kurbo by WW app. Jameela Jamil, an activist and actress who runs the iWeigh campaign for body positivity, tweeted her disgust at the news.

“Are we kidding? Breeding obsession with weight and calories and food at the age of…8?" she wrote. "I was 11 when my obsession started, due to being put on a diet for being the heaviest girl in the class. I became afraid of food. It ruined my teens and twenties.”

Petitions have already been created against the app, with the hashtag #LoveNotDiets trending to urge parents to use love rather than diets to help their nutritional habits.

Childhood obesity is still an incredibly serious public health challenge of the 21st century, and the app attempts to reduce a child's sugar intake. There is nothing wrong with promoting healthy foods and exercising for physical and mental health benefits. 

However, many parents feel that instilling a diet-centered mindset among young people who are already vulnerable could be a dangerous mistake. Targeting the mental health crisis could be a more productive way forward.

Feature image: Instagram/@coachdavidflowers

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Tayto Park has announced two special awareness days for Irish Guide Dogs for the blind, which will take place on Wednesday 21 and Thursday 22 of August.

Tayto Park is Ireland's only theme park and zoo, and is a proud supporter and charity partner of Assistance Dogs in association with Irish Guide Dogs. 

The park has donated €5,000 to the charity, and has also put together an array of activities to support and raise funds for the brilliant organisation.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The Irish Guide Dogs staff and Tayto Park volunteers will encourage visitors across the two days to experience the Sensory Tunnel, which offers users the sensory chance to experience what it's like to be vision impaired.

Guests will be invited to walk through the tunnel blindfolded with street noises and loud traffic blared over the speakers around them. Surfaces like brick walls, a wooden fence, netting, grass and fur allows users to feel their way through the five-metre-long structure.

Floor panels with bumps similar to the tactile pavement used to guide vision impaired people on the streets are included in the structure.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Irish Guide Dogs staff will be on hand to provide information to visitors about how the charity can be supported, and Tayto Park will have bucket collections raising funds for them.

Speaking on the partnership Chairman of the Irish Guide Dogs Board, Patrick Burke said,

“Support such as this is fundamental to our ability to reach and help families of children with autism and those with visual impairment achieve independence and mobility."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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85 percent of our income comes from fundraising and donations from the public and our partnerships with our corporate supporters means we can provide a future for a family of a child with autism or person with visual impairment achieve independence”.

Tayto Park are proud charity partners of Assistance Dogs in association with Irish Guide Dogs, ALONE, supporting older people to age at home and JIGSAW, supporting young people’s health in mind.

Feature image: Instagram/@irishguidedogs

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Love Island star Amy Hart has slammed BBC Radio 1 for "trivialising" her heartbreak after it mentioned a potential new prank involving Curtis Pritchard.

The ex-Islander was dumped emotionally by the professional dancer on the show, following which she left the villa.

Radio 1's Chris Stark posted in a now-deleted tweet;  "Would you like the chance to be dumped by Curtis from Love Island? We've had an idea for the show where we can offer you a fake dumping."

Stark added; "Keen to do a few of these with loads of you. So if you'd like to know what it's like to be dumped by Curtis message me back now…"

Amy posted a screenshot of the post on her own Instagram Stories, writing: "One of the replies was 'it's going to be funny, get him to email in'. I thought we were being conscious of mental health these days?"

She added: "I'm all for a laugh but I just feel that trivialising something that so many people resonated with and turning it into a laughing matter isn't entertainment."

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Amy Hart (@amyhartxo) on

Radio 1 has since told Digital Spy in a statement: "We will have Curtis as a guest on the show and with any live radio, ideas and plans change and this feature isn't something we'll be doing."

Amy reunited with Curtis and Maura Higgins on Love Island's Aftersun Reunion last weekend, and it was mighty uncomfortable to watch. 

The former air hostess has been a huge success story since leaving the villa, with audiences praising her for promoting positive mental health practice.

Feature image; Instagram/@amyhartxo

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