Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Student mental health - falling through the net

Student mental health is hot in the press. In 2015, 15,000 students disclosed a mental health condition, but despite the fact that students are encouraged to talk about their mental health, accessing help whilst a student is made incredibly difficult. With waiting lists incredibly long and only living on campus for 7 months of the year, accessing help is almost impossible, that's if you are even accepted. Here is my story.

 Throughout 2018, on my year abroad, my mental health took a nose dive to the point where I was having to fly back home from Italy during my stay just to have my self harm checked out due to a potential infection. The GP saw me and explained to come back to see her once I was permanently back home in order to get some help. Once I moved back to the UK I approached my GP back home asking for help. I was often suicidal, self-harming everyday & my mental health was taking a toll on my physical health; I lost my period, was having frequent headaches/stomach aches and fatigue. The GP said she wanted to refer me to the mental health unit so I can see a psychiatrist & access more in depth help but due to the fact that I was registered at the university GP (100 miles from home) I couldn’t be referred. I was told I couldn’t reregister when I asked to. So at 21, still not taken seriously, my mum had to get involved which eventually resulted in me being able to reregister at the Home GP. I was referred for Therapy For You an IAPT service where I was then told I could access a text service (not what you need when you are rapidly loosing hope), once I declined this & pushed for the fact that I wanted to see an actual human being I eventually got put on a waiting list. I would be seen that summer.

Except I wasn’t.

September rolled around & 1 week before moving to uni, I received the phone call that a spot had opened up. I explained I was going back to uni & could I do fortnightly sessions so that I would be able to commute? Once again I was refused because it had to be weekly sessions, something my timetable & my bank balance couldn’t allow for. Still to this day I have not received any help, just on another waiting list, 4 months after asking initially for help.

I have fallen through the gap. Being a university student, spending 7 months at uni & the rest at home but only registered to one GP makes accessing help for your mental health incredibly difficult. Had I gone to the GP that very first time with a lump in my breast that they too were worried about I would have been referred to a specialist then & there to have it checked out even though I was a guest in that practice.

When I took to social media to share my story, my inboxes flooded with stories of students who too have been refused help for both their mental and physical health, some ending tragically with a loss in life. A change needs to happen. Our generation is constantly told to be open about our mental health but when we are the support isn't available. 2 other individuals kindly allowed me to share their stories too about, how this year, they too have been failed.

"I went to the GP at uni because I was really suffering with my mental health and they told me I needed to see a CBT therapist. However, it was summer term so was I really expected to travel 1.5 hours every week in order to speak to a therapist for an hour? This would've been VERY stressful for me at the time (considereing that some of the things that triggered my mental health were anxiety, which would've been particularly bad with traveling and timings/time management.) Because of this I had to change my doctors entirely and reregistered at home so I could see somebody there but then when uni started again I ended up travelling back home every time for my appointments. " - Anonymous

"So basically since realising that i've been suffereing with derealisation as well as my anxiety being the worse it's been in a while, I took the step to go and get help here at university. However, I was refused help and cannot reregister here because I have to stay registered in London because I have a tonsillectomy coming up and I'm having a wisdom tooth extraction. So because of this I am left with very little option, I'm practically being forced to put my mental health on the back burner because I can't be registered at two GP's, so because I haven't had help my anxiety attacks have increased ten fold and on some days my derealisation is so strong that I just don't leave my room because everything that I'm perceiving feels false." - Nelly

We are in a mental health crisis and unless there are services to support students both at university and at home during the holidays then lives will continue to be put at risk. So I have decided that I want to ignite a change and I have created a governement petition to allow students to register to 2 GP's. Students shouldn't be falling through the net. 

I would hugely appreciate if you could sign and share this petition with your loved ones. A change starts off small but could help the generations to come.

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