Amy shares her experience accessing mental health support during lockdown. Take our survey so we can make sure people are getting the right support for them.
I have struggled with my mental health since the age of fifteen, as a result of falling victim to bullying. I began to self-harm during this time, and I was also diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder. I had never experienced any mental health struggles before this, so it was an extremely difficult time for me. I felt that the only way to get away from the bullying was to physically remove myself from the situation – and the only way to do this was to move to a different school. This caused even more anxiety for me, as I had just lost all of my friends and had no self-confidence.
When lockdown came around, I found accessing support very difficult. I felt as though there was nowhere or no one to turn to.
Throughout this challenging time, the one thing giving me hope was attending weekly children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) sessions. Not only was it a safe and comfortable place for me to talk to someone who understood, but it was also helping me to recover in the process. However, when lockdown came around, I found accessing support very difficult. I felt as though there was nowhere or no one to turn to who would fully understand what I was going through. I started to struggle with intrusive thoughts that I had never experienced before.
My head was filled with thought after thought, and it became exhausting. This is when I decided to reach out for help – I contacted my doctors’ surgery, where I was referred to speak to a mental health professional who prescribed me with beta-blockers and an antidepressant drug. Although I had to switch medication several times due to experiencing side effects, I think medication has helped to manage my thoughts and emotions. Alongside this, the remote support I have accessed during the lockdowns has also played a big part in my recovery.
Before 2020, I had undergone Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) several times in person, which I found engaging and stimulating for my mental health. However, this past year, accessing mental health support remotely has been the case for pretty much everyone seeking help.
Throughout both of the lockdowns we have experienced in the UK, I have undergone remote mental health support. This has consisted of online CBT and over-the-phone counselling. I referred myself to one of my local mental health services through an online referral form I found on their website. They got back to me in good time, and I had a telephone assessment after both referrals I made.This then led to me being offered a few different types of treatment, and I was given the opportunity to decide which one I thought would work best for me.
It wasn’t a fault of the counsellor, it was simply just the fact that this was all happening through a screen.
Luckily, I didn’t have to wait too long to start both the online CBT and the counselling. Having CBT online through a chat feature was obviously a lot different to being face to face with a counsellor. I felt I had no therapeutic relationship with the counsellor online, and I think for me this is one of the key aspects that makes counselling such a beneficial approach. Difficulty engaging with the sessions and the activities that were set by the counsellor for the upcoming session was the main things I struggled with the most. I felt as though the counsellor didn’t understand what I was going through – imagine speaking to someone and they have no facial expressions, no empathy, nothing. It wasn’t the fault of the counsellor, it was just the fact that this was all happening through a screen.
On a more positive note, the counselling that I was offered over the phone was more suited to me, and I have definitely found it to be helpful. Although it was still somewhat different to face to face support, I could still connect with someone and know that they were understanding me and listening to me.
I would have liked to have been given the chance to have an in-person session, but I also understand the risks
Due to Covid, the types of support currently being offered to people that are struggling with their mental health is extremely limited. There were no options offered to me that were in-person even though the online support hadn’t been right for me. I would have liked to have been given the chance to have an in-person session, but I also understand the risks that come with that.
It is amazing that mental health services have still managed to stay open, despite the state of the world at the minute, although it would be beneficial for many individuals if they were offering some minimal and safe in-person support. Talking to someone over the phone isn’t for everyone, and for those people who feel incapable of doing so, there aren’t many options for them that may actually meet their needs.
I feel lucky to have been given the opportunity to receive counselling and CBT during the lockdowns, as I know many people who haven’t been able to access support through this difficult time.
Counselling especially has massively changed my life over the past few months, and I thoroughly encourage anyone who may be struggling right now to reach out and speak up.
Counselling especially has massively changed my life over the past few months, and I encourage anyone struggling right now to reach out and speak up. The worst thing you can do is bottle it up and keep it to yourself. There are so many resources out there for you to make use of, so please don’t suffer in silence.
Read about Information and support
Since the pandemic, the NHS is giving a lot more of its support by telephone or online, rather than face-to-face. This was to help stop the spread of coronavirus. If many mental health services are going to keep being run like this, we need to find out more about your experiences to make sure they’re getting it right.
If you’re struggling and interested in finding more about how to get help, take a look at our information pages.
When you’re living with a mental health problem, or supporting someone who is, having access to the right information - about a condition, treatment options, or practical issues - is vital. Visit our information pages to find out more.
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.