Some notes for this series; I’m not going to be using any identifying information, so I’ll be referring to each person involved by a letter+ number to tell them apart, as it does get rather confusing. The colour-coding is also just to keep track.
K1– university counsellor
K2– university wellbeing practitioner
L- one of my friends, who I needed to bring with me to some meetings.
C1– first mental health assessor at the community services.
C2– second assessor at the community services.
C3– third assessor at the community services.
Although I’d had mental health difficulties for a long time, since probably age 10, I didn’t see any mental health services until I was 19. Accessing them wasn’t by choice; when a friend needed to take me to A&E, the hospital had to refer me to community services. My friend also booked a GP appointment for me, and contacted my university to see if they could help me. So I went from knowing nothing about mental health services to being seen by three types at once. It was a confusing period of time, because it felt like my only option was to be bounced around from person to person, and do everything they said, even though I wasn’t really sure of what was going on.
The most positive and helpful service I used was definitely my university services. The first counsellor I saw (K1) was really supportive, helping me understand what I was experiencing and what could have caused everything to build up. I saw K1 from the week after the A&E trip (March) until the end of summer break.
Unfortunately, I didn’t remember much from counselling: depression affects my memory anyway, and coupling that with dissociation from what was going on made it difficult to remember what happened in each counselling session as soon as I left it. Afterwards, I found out that university counselling is almost always limited to 6 sessions, so I’m thankful to my counsellor for extending that.
In September, the start of second year, I transferred to my university Wellbeing Service, their general student help service. This transition was easy, as I was told about the change well in advance, and got to meet my Wellbeing supervisor (K2) before the change to make sure I felt comfortable with them. I given a lot of information about what to do if my situation changed or I needed more help.
The Wellbeing service was incredibly useful, as it meant I had a constant- someone who could see how I was last week, and compare it to this week. K2 helped me keep information consistent between all the services, which was also really useful considering I had trouble organising and keeping track of everything.
Wellbeing was the first time I had control in what happened, as I chose how often we would meet and how long for, as well as what we talked about- compared to my experiences with the GP and Community services, having more autonomy in treatment was a relief. Having that longer-term connection with K2 also helped me out when the community services made a mistake (more on that in a later post).
Finally, K2 helped me during a relapse, when she remembered I had an imminent exam and spent the evening fast-tracking an Extenuating Circumstances application for me so I would have a safety net if the exam was affected. While I was alright in the exam, it was a very considerate and supportive action.
I continued seeing K2 until her job contract finished just before the start of third year. While I would have been allowed to continue with another Wellbeing practitioner, and also got to meet them first to see if I would be comfortable, I didn’t take up this offer. However, she seemed like she would have been equally supportive, and again provided information and contact details for me to get back to them if I did need to.
Overall, the university services were the most person-centered, supportive and consistent service I used, and probably the reason I managed to do well in university despite everything going on. I never used mental health services when I first experienced difficulties, because I thought they would be a bad experience; it was the university services that changed my mind and made me want to talk to people about mental health.