By Ffion Clarke, Online Comment Editor
Ffion Clarke writes for Epigram Wellbeing about her own experiences with the Wellbeing services and why she thinks it is worth reaching out.
Throughout my life I have experienced severe anxiety and panic attacks. But at University I have been pushed into distinct crisis points that made me realise this was not the way I deserved to be living and that I needed to get help. The courage it took to register with the counselling service paid off. After getting a response within days I was booked for a consultation session within the next week to see which of their services would be of benefit to me. This time, it would be group CBT.
My counsellors have been nothing but professional and kind, while offering practical advice about dealing with my anxiety. They encouraged us to engage with our experiences with anxiety and feel comfortable sharing openly, while also understanding that this may be difficult. I have never felt more comfortable and welcomed in a room where I have been so vulnerable.
In speaking to other students, I was told how the University wellbeing services had allowed some to feel genuinely happy for the first time, or that it even saved their lives.
Even when I could not make it to a session they were understanding and would send an e-mail to check that I was okay. Clearly, they understand that while spots on these sessions are in high demand, it is tough for people with mental health issues to consistently be on form. Recognising and accommodating this is so important in making space for improved mental wellbeing.
I am so thankful that these sessions have made me comfortable thinking and talking about my own anxiety. I know I won’t always feel great, but that that is okay and that I am more than my weakest days. Most importantly, I know that there are other people with similar experiences, and I’m not as crazy as society can make me feel.
In speaking to other students, I was told how the University wellbeing services had allowed some to feel genuinely happy for the first time, or that it even saved their lives. While, for some, the counselling experiences did not directly help them to improve their mental health, the counsellors’ acceptance and encouragement to talk comfortably about their mental health allowed them to recognise that having these difficulties is okay - which is a huge step in itself.
People’s positive experiences came following a range of mental health experiences, like phobias, eating disorders and suicidal thoughts. Despite the fact that a lot of these people didn’t expect specialist services relevant to be available. They also came from a variety of programmes, like free gym access and guidance via ‘Healthy Minds’ or one-on-one counselling sessions. Many also expressed how helpful and accessible the new Wellbeing Advisors have been. These have been introduced this year in every academic school, and if you go to your school office you should be able to get a same day meeting with them.
Granted, it is heart-breaking when you are in a bad place and go through the online application just to get rejected. It could make you feel more alone than you ever thought you could be.
But, they are doing the best they can.
It is impossible to gauge to the fullest extent how someone is doing from their online application. But it is equally impossible to find a more efficient or accessible way for a large amount of people in crisis to seek help. Trust me when I say that it is a massive step to even get up the courage to fill out the online application. You have recognised that there is a need to actively make an effort to take care of yourself and your mental health. This outcome isn’t reflective of people not caring or the quality of service they can provide once you get through.
The presence of all these services is proof that your experiences are valid.
If you have not been able to get through for a consultation session but feel you would benefit, please talk to your wellbeing advisor - they are the easiest point of access to wellbeing help. It may feel impossible to talk about it. Shutting down is a common part of the struggle with mental health. But, filling out the online form is a step in this direction which has proven to you that you can and need to talk about your problems. The presence of all these services is proof that your experiences are valid. A few moments of what may initially seem like impossible discomfort could give you access to so many of the services that you need.
Note: You do not need to fill out a form or register in order to see a student wellbeing advisor, only to register with the Student Counselling Service
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If you would like to contact the student counselling services, you can find more information at http://www.bristol.ac.uk/student-counselling/