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My Mental Health – An Inside View Of UL’s Counselling Service

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 “My family was falling apart, I felt totally alone,

isolated and scared of absolutely everything. It is

an achievement for me to be able to sit through a

lecture now without having a total panic attack”

“If your body was unwell you would go to a doctor,

wouldn’t you? So why shouldn’t we do the same for

our mind?”

Mental health is a big issue in UL, as well as the rest of Ireland. It is something people really don’t like facing up to or admitting that they need help or support. Thing is, everyone needs it at some point! With the type of world we live in, how could you not! I am hoping that by sharing my personal experience with mental illness and going to the fantastic counselling centre in UL that it will help others realise that it is not a terrifying experience like many think, and like I thought before I went, and hope that it will help others find the courage to that extra step and get the support they deserve. A bit about me, I have suffered from depression the last 4 years. It has gotten so bad that it messed up my ability to get any work done and I am now repeating 1st year. My family was falling apart, I felt totally alone, isolated and scared of absolutely everything. It is an achievement for me to be able to sit through a lecture now without having a total panic attack and I can actually get work done. This improvement is mainly thanks to the counselling service here in UL.

Guess how many times I went up to the hallway just outside from the counselling service and stood there then turned away. I’d have to guess too since it happened so many times before I finally got the courage to go in. I was really terrified. I was scared of being judged by other students going in there, scared of being judged by the counsellors and scared of wasting their time. I thought I wasn’t worth it. Does any of that sound familiar? The thing is though, all of those worries are totally unfounded in any fact. You will not be judged by anyone and you most definitely are not wasting their time.

Over 1000 students have gone through the doors of the counselling service, and I was one of them. I didn’t have a damn clue what to expect. Step by step this is what happens. During one of their daily drop in sessions which are run twice a day you head up and go into the waiting room. The first person you meet is Marion, the Secretary. She is one of the friendliest people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting! From there, she organises for you to chat to one of the assistant psychologists. This is your chance to go in, sit down and get everything off your chest. They are all very friendly and well trained. I was quite nervous talking to someone I didn’t know about such private stuff but you just have to remember, they have heard it all before! These chats are short enough depending on how many are up there but once you break the ice it gets easier to go up again. From there the assistant psychologists will decide what would be the best course of action for you. There are daily classes run by the psychologists to help teach you skills necessary to mind your mental state and the drop in services are always open to you. If needed you will also be set up with an appointment with one of the psychologists for regular hour long meetings, which I was. Again, this feels very daunting going in there but they really are lovely and just want to help. The best advice I can give you is to go in and just remember to breathe. Take a deep breath and start talking. From my own experience it felt like there was a 10 ton weight being lifted off my shoulders, and that was just from opening up and letting out everything that I was having difficulty with. Just from talking to someone about it.

The counselling service here is exemplary. It is a service all of us are extremely lucky to have as well. They aren’t miracle workers but they do make life so much easier. From the smallest problem to the biggest there is some aspect of the service that is there to help you cope. Don’t get me wrong, there are days where I/you can still feel useless and stressed. Days where you just want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world, where it is impossible to find the will to do anything or most scarily for me, where you just feel numb. These days can still happen, but with some professional help, time and support it does get better. It gets easier to deal with.

These things aren’t easy to open up about, and yes, I feel a little anxious about this, but it is something no one should be ashamed of. If your body was unwell you would go to a doctor, wouldn’t you? So why shouldn’t we do the same for our mind? If you are having a tough time then don’t bottle it up brush it aside. Find that spark of courage inside yourself and get the support you deserve. It isn’t as terrifying as many think and it does really help. And for everyone else, if a friend is having a tough time the best thing you can do is just be there for them. Be a listening ear and try help point them towards the counselling service. Sometimes it takes that little external push to start something that will make a world of difference.
By Charlotte Ryan

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