Mental health support during the Pandemic – is it easy to get help?

Watch
BlinkyBill
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#1
Report 2 months ago
#1
As the pandemic continues, we’re seeing lots of students reaching out to the TSR community with questions about their mental health. As the new academic year starts, there’s load of change happening, and ongoing lockdowns/restrictions are creating a challenging environment for many.

We are aware that the access to Mental Health support isn’t always as straight forward or the same for everyone, and will vary due to so many factors – so we’d like to hear from you about your experience accessing mental health support you have previously experienced or are currently experiencing.

What have you found particularly helpful in looking after your mental health (resources or your own habits, maybe?)

What have been some of the road blocks for accessing Mental Health support?

What has been your overall experience with Mental Health support?

Working with clinical psychiatrist Dr Richard Graham, we've put together some helpful informationto answer some of the most recent questions we’ve seen on TSR about anxiety, depression and seeking support. There's also some really helpful stuff at Good Thinking.

Sometimes it can be really helpful to hear from other people who've been in your shoes. Ahead of World Mental Health Day this year, a few people from the TSR community have shared their stories and talked about the support they received when they needed it. You can read these here...


I've had anxiety for as long as I can remember...
Spoiler:
Show
I've had anxiety for as long as I can remember, probably as a younger child too. It got worse around year 11, 12, and 13 when a number of stressful events happened on top of my GCSEs and A Levels - finally in year 13 it reached a bit of a breaking point. I was scared to leave the house, crying myself to sleep, and just in a really bad place. I was really scared to tell my family or friends about how I felt, not because I thought they would be rude about it, but I guess I didn't want to worry them. I reached out to one of my teachers who I trusted. She was really supportive and suggested that I made an appointment with my GP. I did this without telling any of my friends and family, I was 17, a few months away from being 18. I remember being so nervous when I was waiting to see the GP and ended up just bursting into tears in front of him. The GP was relatively sympathetic and I felt heard. He referred me to a local mental health service which offered CBT, he told me I would need to be 18 but that by the time I was seen I probably would be 18. He advised against medication as I was still young.


I had a phone assessment with the mental health service who agreed that I needed support and that I would be able to be seen for CBT when I was 18 in a couple of months. Even just talking to them had helped somewhat, to let it all out. I finally told my Mum about how I had been feeling - she wasn't annoyed or upset about it overall, but was of course upset that I had bottled this up and not talked to her about it. I can't remember what happened in those couple of months between going to my GP and having my first CBT session, as this was quite a number of years ago, but I must have managed to keep going.

I was really lucky not to have waited too long. I had my first CBT session and again I burst into tears letting it all out. The therapist was very understanding and gave me plenty of time to talk. We had a number of sessions (I think about 6) working on aspects such as black and white thinking and catastrophising. By the end of the sessions, I had completed my A level exams and was into the summer holidays which also helped a lot. I certainly wasn't 'fixed' by any means, but I did feel like I had some tools to cope better with my anxiety.

Over the next two or three years, when I was in my third year of university, my anxiety got worse and again I was struggling with even simple tasks. I saw the university nurse who referred me to the university mental health services and prescribed me with medication. I was quite unsure about the medication at first but I do think it helped at the time. Quite quickly, I had another series of CBT sessions which helped to add to the tools to cope better with my anxiety. Some of this refreshed what I had learnt from the previous CBT sessions, and some of it was new. I had some talking therapy through work in my first job after university after another stressful event which also helped at the time. I took medication for my anxiety for about another year after this, and gradually came off it with support from my GP.

I haven't accessed any further mental health support support since in the last couple of years. Not because my anxiety has gone or I'm 'fixed', but because generally overall I feel like I have the tools and support from loved ones to cope for now. I have been tempted to have some private therapy sessions, just occasionally to let some weight off my shoulders. I'm still weighing this up but I will access this if needed.

If you feel that you need the support for your mental health, please do seek it - whether that be from your GP, talking to a loved one, teacher, or your university/work place. There is support out there. Yes there are waiting lists, but I've always expected a long wait and been seen quite promptly - so don't let this put you off. Even if there is a waiting list, get on it soon rather than later! There is no need to feel embarrassed, you wouldn't if you broke your leg and needed medical attention for that, mental health is part of your overall health and wellbeing - you deserve to take care of it - you matter.

This story is from BurstingBubbles. If you'd like to ask her any questions, she's happy for you to tag her into this thread


In my third year of uni, I hit a massive wall...
Spoiler:
Show
In my third year of uni, I hit a massive wall in terms of motivation, I felt like I was going to fail my whole degree. It started with getting a 2:2 on an assignment I worked so hard on in February. I was absolutely crushed, and spent a good few days in weeps of tears. I was thinking "what's the point of working hard when it doesn't pay off" and things like that. After a few days of being pretty upset , I started thinking how it wasn't really "normal" for me to have reacted like that. It's just one grade, and it obviously doesn't define my whole uni experience. I did actually make an appointment to see my doctor about it, but this wasn't until the middle of March (about 2 weeks away). I begun doing research into anxiety, something I may actually be struggling with in general and realised that something isn't quite right and I should seek help.


I reached out to some amazing friends and I'm part of a great community of women who helped support me too. By the time my GP appointment came around, it actually got cancelled because of COVID but I was okay with that. I was at a point where I had done so much research on my own, talking to other people who felt similar and processing my feelings that I didn't feel like I needed professional support. I didn't feel "that bad" that I needed to see a doctor.

So I got through it on my own in the end. Sort of through choice, but sort of not too. If my GP appointment was a lot sooner than it was booked for, I definitely would have gone and sought some kind of proper support. But I knew I basically had to deal with the 2 weeks in between, so I had to make do and try my best.

Whilst I acknowledge that I may have some form of anxiety, I don't feel that it's affecting my life so negatively that I need to seek support. I'm able to regulate myself now and realise when I'm struggling and what I can do to make it better. This probably isn't the best way to go about it, but I know that others would be feeling like I am too.
- Anonymous


I decided to seek support from a GP when I started university... (content warning)
Spoiler:
Show
Due to a lack of funding, accessing mental health care in general can be difficult but for those who require more specialist intervention the waits and lack of support can be even worse.


CW
I decided to seek support from a GP when I started University. Prior to this I had been suffering with self harm, erratic moods, chronic nightmares and suicidal thoughts, the majority of which I tried to hide from my school and family for fear of the reaction. I took the opportunity of independence to be honest to my doctor about the issues I had been experiencing.

It was clear from my first appointment that I had more going on that anxiety and depression but I was given this as a ‘placeholder’ type diagnosis in order to access DSA support from the University (a very helpful scheme and one I recommend anyone with a mental or physical condition looks into – I found the mentor aspect of it very useful). I was also referred to IAPT (something you can also self refer to) which I personally found unhelpful as a generic stress course wasn’t appropriate for my needs, but it was all my GP could offer at the time.

I was referred to a psychiatrist in the September and was only seen around March time. Appointments have to be adequately spaced apart to assess you over a certain period, so even though I was a fairly clear cut case it took until May for me to get my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.

I was added to the waitlist for DBT as well as put on an antipsychotic mood stabiliser. I was on the waitlist for a year and a half and found it helpful overall insofar as providing tools to deal with the symptoms.

One main problem of current MH care is the is often the only places to go in a crisis such as A&E treat the immediate issue then discharge you with no further support or check ups to help prevent a reoccurrence of the same event. For this reason A&E and similar can become a revolving door whilst people wait for longer term support (despite this you should still seek help in a crisis even if it is just to keep yourself safe for the duration of your episode).

There needs to be more funding put into preventing crises not just treating them as they occur.
The above combined with infrequent secondary care appointments, means you need to be self supporting sometimes and not expect therapy- when you get it - to fix everything. It certainly helped me but the support from my mum, my pet rodents and my friends helped me graduate with a 2:1 and I now work full time. It can be done; seek NHS support early if possible, invest in support networks around you and no matter the label, defy the stigma.

~ Anonymous Graduate

A few weeks ago, my partner asked me outright if I was having physical dysphoria...
Spoiler:
Show
It took me quite a long time to even get to the point where I recognised that I should seek mental health support. A few weeks ago, my partner asked me outright if I was having physical dysphoria, and I genuinely wasn't expecting to burst into tears, or even to have much to say. Looking back, with all the chaos of the past year - not only COVID, but competitive uni applications, family illness, a close friend's bereavement - I had built up a 'can do' persona, but all I'd really done was ram my own feelings of distress, especially related to my gender identity, as far down as they could go and hoped they'd go away.


I didn't realise that at all, but over the next days and weeks, I was overwhelmed by the rush of emotions that I'd refused to acknowledge for so long. I spoke to friends and family, who surprised me with their insight - some even expressed that they'd tried to hint at this before, but I'd brushed it off, too busy with everyone else's problems. Ironically, this was all before I looked into counselling; the mere fact of acknowledging that I probably needed help was a catalyst for self-reflection and thinking about what I needed to think about.

Even after all this, actually going online to look for support felt incredibly daunting, and I kept putting it off; "I should wait until I get to uni", "I should wait until I can do it in person", "maybe I don't really need it"... In the end, it took a particularly scathing barb from a parent to browbeat me into actually googling the dreaded words, "LGBT counselling [where I live]". I was surprised by how easy it was after that, my terror replaced with what was maybe a nascent hope as I found a few services that looked interesting.

And then I made the mistake of looking at the waiting times - 6 months or more - which almost threw me back to square one. It had taken me so long to realise I needed help, and I was so hopeful that it would really make a difference - but I wasn't going to get any any time soon. The thought of keeping treading water for half a year felt unbearable, and I really fell into a slump.

I've since printed off and completed the forms I need to fill in (I can't send them off yet, as I'm in the process of changing GPs), since it is better than nothing to apply. But I have mixed feelings about what the help will be like when it comes - will me in six months still need help? Will I be able to cope? What do I do until then - I want to keep going, but I do want support. I'm going to attend a support group in the meantime, but it only meets monthly. In some ways it's a massive anticlimax - the initial buzz of getting help replaced by the damp squib of waiting.

I'm hopeful, but I'm tired, too, before it even starts.
- Anonymous
Last edited by BlinkyBill; 1 month ago
0
reply
CoolCavy
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#2
Report Thread starter 2 months ago
#2
I'm not pulling any punches here, no (to answer the thread title).
Pre-pandemic the NHS mental health services were abysmal already, mild depression and anxiety not too bad to get help for since you can self refer to places like IAPT and community services like that (although the wait is around 6 months) but for anything even moderately more complicated that needs a specialist rather than a GP the entire thing is crumbling down. You have about a 6 month wait to get seen by anyone and then appointments have to be adequately spaced apart in order to prove that your issues are sustained and not just for the day the psych sees you.
So if you need multiple appointments to get diagnosed that is months, without a diagnosis you will have a hard time getting referred to any specialist therapy. When you do get referred finally you are looking at more than a year usually to get into even a group therapy (I have no idea how long individual therapy waitlists are but it will be even longer than that).
This was all before covid.
When lockdown occurred i was in the process of finishing up DBT reviews having completed it in november after a year and a half of being on a waitlist. As i was finishing the after review process the psychotherapist said that MH services were no longer processing any referrals to specialists or therapy. Meaning people already on waitlists had almost half a year added onto the already ginormous times.
I have not been able to see any professional face to face since april. Yes there are phone appointments and the econsult system but some things in terms of MH are sensitive and difficult to talk about over the phone.
Many people within the NHS treat people with personality disorders as attention seeking and a nuisance because we often relapse due to inadequate support. So I'm sure the MH system is not exactly devastated that they cant see us.
What interests me is the fact there has been a huge outcry over cancer waitlists due to the lockdown, cancer treatments have been delayed by months and people arent getting treated. Not to compare the two but people were waiting far longer than that in ordinary times for MH treatment which can be just as life threatening but the public and the government dont care. Nobody should be waiting months to get seen for any medical condition and its only going to get worse with a recession and presumably more cuts in the future as we try to recoup some of the covid debt.
Unfortunately it seems like the government is only interested in saving lives if it is covid related, anything else can just be forgotten about or ignored because covid takes precedents over everything it seems.
I have no questions i just wanted to vent
Last edited by CoolCavy; 2 months ago
11
reply
Pathway
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#3
Report 2 months ago
#3
I honestly think most MH issues on the milder end of the spectrum can self-manage by incorporating healthy habits into their daily life. Eating healthfully, drinking enough water, moderate exercise, good support system (not engaging with toxicity where possible), good and restful sleep. Meditation, using self-help resources and journalling as well. The problem is most people don't want to take responsibility for themselves and would rather get a MH diagnosis and use it as an excuse and it's honestly sad. This means the people with more moderate issues or severe of the spectrum struggle to get help because people with subclinical issues won't help themselves (took me over a year to get specialist help pre-pandemic and various times almost getting sectioned due to deterioration of my MH).

Mental health issues aren't easy to deal with but you have to take some responsibility for yourself to live a healthy lifestyle, if it doesn't improve or you're severely affected (or suicidal even) then you must get help.
6
reply
marinade
Badges: 16
Rep:
?
#4
Report 2 months ago
#4
The stepped care model as applied to mental health causes so many problems. IAPT just doesn't work and is one massive distraction.

For me one of the most important things is often people try many stategies and sticking to them is important. If you are going to exercise you need to do it for a year. If you are going to do mindfulness you need to try it for some months. If you are going to try therapy you need to stick it out. I see so many people jumping around from one strategy to another after a few days. We all want results quickly but sometimes we don't stick to things as long as we should.
1
reply
Sabertooth
Badges: 20
Rep:
?
#5
Report 2 months ago
#5
I just call my psychiatrist up and we video chat. :dontknow:
0
reply
Ramipril
Badges: 18
Rep:
?
#6
Report 2 months ago
#6
I mean I know where to go if I need it. But nobody actually cares anymore unless it's covid. So I have my own (albeit very unhealthy) coping mechanisms which are working perfectly
0
reply
Anonymous #1
#7
Report 2 months ago
#7
(Original post by Pathway)
I honestly think most MH issues on the milder end of the spectrum can self-manage by incorporating healthy habits into their daily life. Eating healthfully, drinking enough water, moderate exercise, good support system (not engaging with toxicity where possible), good and restful sleep. Meditation, using self-help resources and journalling as well. The problem is most people don't want to take responsibility for themselves and would rather get a MH diagnosis and use it as an excuse and it's honestly sad. This means the people with more moderate issues or severe of the spectrum struggle to get help because people with subclinical issues won't help themselves (took me over a year to get specialist help pre-pandemic and various times almost getting sectioned due to deterioration of my MH).

Mental health issues aren't easy to deal with but you have to take some responsibility for yourself to live a healthy lifestyle, if it doesn't improve or you're severely affected (or suicidal even) then you must get help.
People with ‘mild’ mental health conditions deserve respect, to be taken seriously and have a right to treatment just as much as those with ‘serious’ mental health conditions. It is not their fault that the system is broken. To ask for help for you MH takes courage. People with poor mental health already struggle with the guilt of ‘wasting the doctor’s time’ or ‘not being deserving enough of help’ and I would worry that reading things like this only makes them feel more invalidated.

A ‘mild’ MH issue still causes suffering, and it’s not for you to decide an arbitrary threshold of how severe you need to be to deserve help. Suggesting you should only seek help if you are severely affected or suicidal (!), or have made at least x lifestyle changes first is unfair, unreasonable and likely to cause MH issues to become even more entrenched. On lifestyle changes, people may not be in a privileged enough position to do this for themselves or struggle because of their MH issues in the first place. They might not be as educated as you to know these things.

The assertion that “most people don’t want to take responsibility for themselves and would rather get a MH diagnosis and use it as an excuse” - I’m not sure what stereotype you have in mind here but I don’t know how you could possibly extrapolate that this is true for ‘most people’. I find it upsetting that you are blaming the fact you struggled to access help on people with “subclinical issues who won’t help themselves”. It is a stigmatising and offensive attitude. Going to a doctor is helping yourself. Attending IAPT sessions takes effort. Doing therapy homework is taking responsibility.

I am not sure if you wrote this post when you were angry or just worded it badly but please think about how it comes across. I hope you get the help you need.
7
reply
1st superstar
Badges: 22
Rep:
?
#8
Report 2 months ago
#8
(Original post by Pathway)
I honestly think most MH issues on the milder end of the spectrum can self-manage by incorporating healthy habits into their daily life. Eating healthfully, drinking enough water, moderate exercise, good support system (not engaging with toxicity where possible), good and restful sleep. Meditation, using self-help resources and journalling as well. The problem is most people don't want to take responsibility for themselves and would rather get a MH diagnosis and use it as an excuse and it's honestly sad. This means the people with more moderate issues or severe of the spectrum struggle to get help because people with subclinical issues won't help themselves (took me over a year to get specialist help pre-pandemic and various times almost getting sectioned due to deterioration of my MH).

Mental health issues aren't easy to deal with but you have to take some responsibility for yourself to live a healthy lifestyle, if it doesn't improve or you're severely affected (or suicidal even) then you must get help.
I agree with this.
0
reply
Anonymous #2
#9
Report 1 month ago
#9
I think the system is extremely broken - like the social housing system - unless you have an "extreme or bad case" you'll been either told to buzz off or referred to your college or uni to be a burden to them instead. The reality is it's getting worse - the CAMHS system in Scotland is a failure - I got rejected 3x for support from a 3 year period - and still been left in limbo - even though I have bad ADHD. The recommendation was to go see my University support team - which I have done before - but they can't prescribe new medication or are a replacement for a GP - I pay NI for nothing pretty much.

The system is dire and I eventually lost patience and went private instead.
0
reply
username5414076
Badges: 19
Rep:
?
#10
Report 1 month ago
#10
The system was broken before Covid and is even worse now.
5
reply
kasia al
Badges: 3
Rep:
?
#11
Report 1 month ago
#11
I have healthy daughter who has just started her uni, but I have also daughter who is 5 yr non-verbal severe ASD. I meet a lot of misunderstandings of my daughter behaviours from parents who have verbal children with mild autism. My little girl probably would never has chance to study like their though I know that they also have to deal with not always fair treatment.
0
reply
Anonymous #3
#12
Report 1 month ago
#12
Absolutely nothing, I’ve reached the point where I’ve exhausted all options for me to help myself at home.

The extreme long waits, needing to actually reach out for help, not wanting to put my hardy barrier down, more recently the fact things are over the phone (I’m autistic and struggle with this).

It’s somewhat ok. I didn’t like how quick the doctor was quick to put me on sedating medication though. I either live like a zombie or being taunted by my own mind. Lose lose.
0
reply
DiddyDec
Badges: 19
Rep:
?
#13
Report 1 month ago
#13
No.

It was difficult pre-pandemic, if anything it is now even more difficult.
I have been managing my issues for years without any kind of professional support, not for want of trying just for lack of services.
1
reply
BlinkyBill
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#14
Report 1 month ago
#14
Hey guys,

I just wanted to let you know I've just popped a few personal stories from students into the OP. Thank you to those people who chose to share their experiences. It can be so helpful to be able to read what others have been through. We'll be doing loads more around mental health this week, as it's World Mental Health Day on Saturday!

We will also be sharing the results of the poll in this thread with the wider world - it's important that your voices on important issues like this are being heard, especially with the theme of WMHD this year being 'mental health for all - greater investment, greater access.' :yep:
0
reply
BlinkyBill
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#15
Report 1 month ago
#15
Hey guys!

Just a quick one to share with you some practical tips we've put together for seeking mental health support during the pandemic. It also talks about how to identify if what you're feeling might be anxiety or depression. It's over here.
Last edited by BlinkyBill; 1 month ago
0
reply
DiddyDec
Badges: 19
Rep:
?
#16
Report 1 month ago
#16
(Original post by BlinkyBill)
Hey guys!

Just a quick one to share with you some practical tips we've put together for seeking mental health support during the pandemic. It also talks about how to identify if what you're feeling might be anxiety or depression.
I'm not sure that is the right link, although I am very curious as to what "Flywheel Alignment: Attract" might mean.
0
reply
BlinkyBill
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#17
Report 1 month ago
#17
(Original post by DiddyDec)
I'm not sure that is the right link, although I am very curious as to what "Flywheel Alignment: Attract" might mean.
Thank you. I've fixed that link now.
0
reply
LovelyMrFox
Badges: 21
Rep:
?
#18
Report 1 month ago
#18
No. Since I live in the US and can afford private Ive had pretty good experiences overall pre pandemic bar the sky high rates. With Covid though I had to stop going to therapy as I felt uncomfortable doing it virtual with the possibility that my family could overhear things and Im in the risk group so I cant do it in person ( which they are surprisingly still offering last I checked ). Pre pandemic I wasnt going as frequently since I was getting much better managing but I havent spoken to anyone in 7 months now.
Im getting better at self managing due to all of this which I suppose can only be a good thing but I feel quite alone in that.
0
reply
Anonymous #4
#19
Report 1 month ago
#19
(Original post by Pathway)
The problem is most people don't want to take responsibility for themselves and would rather get a MH diagnosis and use it as an excuse and it's honestly sad.
As a health professional, this is sadly incredibly true.
0
reply
Yazomi
Badges: 18
Rep:
?
#20
Report 1 month ago
#20
Interesting
0
reply
X

Quick Reply

Attached files
Write a reply...
Reply
new posts
Back
to top
Latest
My Feed

See more of what you like on
The Student Room

You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

Personalise

Should there be a new university admissions system that ditches predicted grades?

No, I think predicted grades should still be used to make offers (707)
33.94%
Yes, I like the idea of applying to uni after I received my grades (PQA) (890)
42.73%
Yes, I like the idea of receiving offers only after I receive my grades (PQO) (393)
18.87%
I think there is a better option than the ones suggested (let us know in the thread!) (93)
4.46%

Watched Threads

View All
Latest
My Feed