I feel let down by the university's Wellbeing services
Tarini Tiwari 12 May 2021
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of InQuire Media
Image courtesy of Mart Productions on Pexels
Over the course of the past few months, I’ve come to realise that I am in dire need of therapy. Years of mental health issues that the pandemic only seemed to amplify have made me crave guidance from somebody trained to help me. I felt overwhelmed by where to begin, so I contacted the university.
I was sent a series of forms to fill in and was told I would be given an appointment with the counselling team shortly. I answered as best as I could despite feeling a panic attack building just having to write about the things I’d experienced that triggered this application.
On Friday 19 March, I had my appointment. I poured my heart out to the woman on the other side of my screen, and I felt like she was really listening. As terrifying and anxiety-inducing as it was to pour my anxious heart out, I was excited to begin my journey towards getting better, thinking our conversation would resume in next week's appointment. As the session drew to a close, I was told that the was just a session for them to get to know me better. I won’t be interacting with her again, as they will be assigning me a counsellor who will better cater to my needs.
This would take at least three weeks, she said. Three whole weeks.
I felt so betrayed. I had just opened up about so much to somebody I would never see again. She knew all my secrets. Now what? Three whole weeks? I felt like I was walking through a busy airport terminal and had just noticed my suitcase hadn’t been zipped up. Looking behind me, all my personal belongings were strewn across the terminal floor, but people were already trampling over them. I couldn’t get them all back in the suitcase where they’d been safe, hidden from view.
So I waited. Three whole weeks.
Finally, the email came through. I was given an appointment for "the following Monday". This would make it a month since my last session. Four whole weeks. But it was an appointment. It was a step forward.
Hours later, another email. My counsellor couldn’t make that appointment, so now it was to be postponed to the Monday after. Five whole weeks.
I've since had my first session. But in the five weeks since that initial session, I’ve had moments where I’ve cried uncontrollably, broken down, yelled, isolated myself off from others. I’ve avoided talking about these things because I’m scared of burdening the people around me. Save it for therapy, I tell myself.
Even though the process has been difficult, I'm still glad I reached out to the Wellbeing services because I needed help and needed to ask for it. I also know that services such as these are understaffed and in high demand. Still, it doesn’t change how wretched it feels when a service that has been advertised as being easy to access seems so out of reach.
I am grateful that my mental state hasn’t worsened. To wait five weeks, five whole weeks, between appointments could be enough to send somebody over the edge. Waiting this long has only exacerbated feelings I’ve had that I’m not worth listening to. If my therapist can’t make the time for me, why should anyone?
I've voiced the concerns expressed here to my therapist, who apologetically told me she's going to advise that the Wellbeing team makes the process clearer to students. It's a start, and a step in the right direction, but the long waiting lists are an issue in and of themselves. The newly elected Kent Union team need to keep their promises of improving mental health services. More funding needs to be allocated to the services and more staff needs to be employed.
If you are struggling with your mental health, please don't be afraid to ask for help. You can call the Samaritans 24/7 on 116 123 for free for immediate help.