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From March 13th every day for two weeks, we will be posting a new piece of content about people’s first experience of having a conversation about their mental health as part of our campaign #14Conversations.

We are raising money for a local, free mental health service for local people aged 11-25: Off The Record. They’re doing an amazing job but they can’t do it without financial support. Click here to donate!

#Conversation3 comes from JG.

In 2014, I had reached breaking point.

It occurred to me during one drama lesson that the pressure of coming to terms with being gay in a strict Catholic comprehensive, dealing with my parent’s divorce and maintaining grades I could be proud of was simply too much to handle on my own.

In tears, I ran to my councillor’s office for the first time. Her name was Nicky, and I knew she provided a confidential, non-judgemental service.

She listened to me for hours and hours. It was a relief; someone validated my worries, explored my concerns and enabled me to review the self-destructive habits that I had built up during my previous years of stress.

Over time, Nicky and I achieved wonders. I began to conquer anxiety, mastered the surprisingly beneficial craft of mindfulness and began to approach my life with a more educated mindset. It was like completing school, in a sense. It taught me the foundations of what I needed to grow.

It’s my hope that together…we can forge a society that encourages talk around the subject, not one that hides it behind the curtain.

Since then I have explored many avenues to aid my mental healing process, the University of Bristol’s mental health facilities enabling me to do so.

The counselling services at the University are just as warm and welcoming as my old counsellor from school was, and through the NHS courses of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (which I recently began) can be supplied to those who wish to take the next step in conquering the bullies in their brains.

The sad truth is that there are too many people dealing with mind consuming stress, anxiety, depression, obsessive compulsions and other debilitating mental health issues that don’t realise help is out there, and easily attainable for students.

It’s my hope that together, with increased awareness and reduced stigma around mental health, we can forge a society that encourages talk around the subject, not one that hides it behind the curtain.

It is crucial that we reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

An important distinction can be made between Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Counselling.

Imagine that your mental health struggles are represented by a hole in the ground. Counselling is a way of understanding the ditch you stand in, examining the pebbles that line the base and opening your eyes to the world around you through kind and relaxed conversation.

For many, counselling is enough to allow people to climb out of the hole, but for the rest Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (or CBT for short) is a fantastic next step.

The service can be accessed through an appointment with your GP (or via the Bristol Wellbeing Therapy website) and offers an equally confidential and welcoming 1-on-1 or group based course with a therapist.

For me, the help of these mental health services has helped me to realise I am not alone.

CBT is for those who understand the hole they stand in but need further guidance with how to get out of it. A more solution based therapy, CBT helps to take you through a step by step journey to build the ladder that can get you out of the hole you’re in, with the aim of eventually enabling you to climb up and out on your own.

Much like learning to ride a bike, CBT offers you lessons and tips that you can draw on throughout the rest of your life, should you ever need to.

In between sessions, you are given homework that may comprise of practicing techniques or filling out worksheets, all with the aim of allowing you to get a firm hold of your situation and develop a muscle that you can flex whenever you need to for the rest of your life.

For me, the help of these mental health services has helped me to realise I am not alone. The journey I still travel is a road traversed by many, and thankfully for all of us this decade offers the best ever treatment for mental health issues in the quality and effectiveness of the treatment provided both by private companies and the NHS.

I won’t pretend that it is easy. I won’t claim that the road back to comfort is one that can be crossed in a day, or a week.

What I can say, though, is that accessing these facilities free and available to us as students not only saved my life, but has allowed me to begin preparing for a future I once thought I could never attain.

So, if you’re hesitant to reach out, feel ashamed or just need someone to talk to, it’s time for you to get your sunshine back. I believe in you.


Thank you JG for sharing your story. Get involved in the conversation by using #14Conversations on Twitter!

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