A former Abertay University student has urged people struggling with mental health issues to speak out this Christmas after support given to her helped her graduate.
Laura Jackson graduated last month with a Masters in International Human Resource Management.
It was a proud achievement for the 23 year-old, who says it wouldn’t have happened without the support provided by Abertay’s Mental Health Advisor and Student Services team throughout her studies.
“A few years ago, I was at a really low point in my life. I had just started a business degree in Glasgow but, due to health and mental health issues, I felt so isolated that I dropped out after only a few weeks and had to go back to living with my mum,” she said.
“If you’d told me then that I’d soon be graduating with a Masters with Distinction, I would never have believed you.”
Throughout her three years at Abertay – two completing a BA in Business Management, and one at Masters level – Laura attended regular sessions with its mental health advisor David Cameron.
“Because I’d had a few months out after leaving Glasgow, when I started at Abertay I wanted to see what was available to help support my studies,” she said.
“The Advisory Service not only provided me with practical resources, including a study plan and a laptop with special dyslexia software that helped with my coursework but, because I’d informed them I had been diagnosed with anxiety, they also referred me to David.”
This ongoing support ended up being key to Laura’s progression through her degree as she engaged with the service when she felt overwhelmed juggling coursework deadlines, a part-time job and a spate of health issues, including an underactive thyroid and learning difficulties dyslexia, dyspraxia and dysgraphia.
“There were so many times, when things were tough and my mental health was suffering, that I was close to giving up,” she said.
“Knowing that support was there and available was what kept me going. Some of my friends have mental health issues of their own which meant they weren’t always able to help when I needed them. David was a constant.”
Following Graduation, Laura has moved back to Glasgow and is currently an intern at a women-only HR practice, while she thinks about her next move.
By sharing her story, Laura hopes she can help inspire others to keep going, even when mental health issues try to stand in their way.
Laura said: “My advice to anyone out there who feels like I did is to not put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect. Speak to someone, get a study plan and let people help you. You’re not letting anyone down by focusing on yourself now and again.”
Abertay’s Mental Health Advisor, David Cameron, said: “I am pleased I have been able to contribute a little and help Laura. She had a lot to cope with, both with her physical health and mental health, therefore her achievements deserve great credit.”
A number of organisations will be available over the festive period for those seeking support or help:
Breathing Space Scotland – provides telephone counselling. Open: Weekdays – Monday to Thursday 6pm to 2am; Weekend -Friday 6pm to Monday 6am. Their phone number is 0800 83 85 87.
Insights Counselling – a counselling services that provides confidential, non-judgemental, 1-2-1 counselling by appointment. For further details you can phone 01382-305706 or visit them online.
Samaritans – provides a 24/7, 365 day a year telephone service – Their phone number is 116 123 or you can email email@example.com.
A Dundee couple who recently celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary have donated all the money given to them in lieu of gifts to a charity set up in memory of a young city dad who tragically took his own life.
Anton, known as Dode, and Anne Dolderer, celebrated their golden anniversary with a party in the Taxi Club.
Instead of gifts, the Coldside couple asked family and friends to contribute to the Not in Vain for Lee charity.
Lee Welsh took his own life, aged only 27, claims he had not been given enough support for mental health issues.
Since then his family have been raising funds in his memory.
Lee’s childhood friend Steve Martin, 27, organised the first Lee Welsh Memorial Match which was held at North End Park in June. It will be played again next year.
Lee’s dad Phil said: “Our friends Dode and Anne requested that their guests contribute to the Not in Vain for Lee charity events which will take place again in the summer of 2019.
“They raised a massive £750 at their special party and have donated this to us.
“This fantastic gesture will enable us to buy a second set of strips for the memorial match next year and still leave money to go towards our chosen mental health charity.
“We cannot thank them enough for this amazing gesture.”
Every day in Scotland, an average of two people die from suicide.
It is the leading cause of death among people aged 20-34 in the UK – with the rate considerably higher among men.
Sadly, it’s an issue all too familiar to many in Dundee – so much so that it’s led to intense scrutiny of local mental health services and an inquiry being launched. All last week, events were held to highlight the issue for Suicide Prevention Week. As part of that, the Tele has spoken to four people who have attempted to take their own lives, about their experiences and how they came through them.
They’re all members of the Blue Wings group, set up in Dundee by Robbie Russell after his frustration grew at the “underfunded” mental health services on offer in Tayside.
The group previously led calls for patrols to be introduced to the Tay Road Bridge, following a number of incidents involving people contemplating suicide or taking their lives on the crossing.
Dave Johnston, 43, from Claverhouse, became aware of suicide in a previous workplace.
He said: “Part of my day-to-day work involves taxying when my other operation is out of season so I quite regularly meet people in the taxis who experience mental health problems and suicidal tendencies. My own personal belief is that people are let down by the system.
“Right now if someone goes up to Carseview, they’ll be turned away on the vast majority of occasions without any treatment at all.”
Although the issue is common throughout Tayside, Dave said he has seen people around him being afraid to admit their dark thoughts to the authorities, calling for more effort to bring understanding to the system.
Dave said: “I’ve got experience from speaking to somebody very recently who had attempted their own life and were taken to Carseview.
“They were taken overnight and their only experience the next morning was that a police surgeon spoke to them and asked if they still felt suicidal. Nobody in their right mind would say yes because they don’t want to be kept in police custody and they were released that morning.”
He said including people who have experienced suicide themselves is needed in the system.
He said: “The folk that deal with these issues day in and day out may have ideas about it but perhaps the best people to talk to them and give them advice are the people that are suffering from the problems themselves.
“We still live in a very macho environment where it’s seen as a weakness to speak about these types of things. It’s not a weakness, it’s an illness.”
Robbie Russell, 28, from Arbroath, said he became angry and lonely during his teenage years, eventually attempting suicide at age 16 for the first time.
He said: “I was fine when I was younger, but when I got to my teenage years, I was quite angry.
“I was seen as a bad kid.
“I was never recognised as someone with mental health issues. It followed me into my late teens – I started getting arrested and turned to drugs as a shield to get out of it but it didn’t work.”
Robbie said he struggled to open up about the way he was feeling.
He added: “It was instilled into me about pride. You’re a man, you’re not really supposed to have feelings.
“That’s not the case – we’re all human and everyone feels an emotion and everyone should be allowed to express it.
“The first person I told was my mum. She’s always been my rock, I have always been a bit of a mummy’s boy. She has talked me out of a lot of situations.”
At his most vulnerable, Robbie started hiding under his bed and felt like he was not being taken seriously.
“I was let down by the system. Back then, there was far too much ignorance – everyone was just playing you off like you’re an attention-seeker,” he said.
Robbie later founded the Blue Wings group to help others who were feeling suicidal with the hope of developing the Facebook group into a charity.
“I started getting a lot better and opening up a lot more than I used to,” he said.
“I started accepting things a lot more.”
Aged 13, Tina Grant, from Douglas, tried to take her own life for the first time. She said she would do anything to get the pain she was feeling out of her head.
Tina said: “I felt dead for such a long time. I tried to do pills, slit my wrists, drink, everything.
“I didn’t know how to deal with it all so I thought that was the only way to do it.
“When you’re in a dark place and have so many bad things going on in your life, you just want to escape it.”
Tina, now 35, went through her suicide attempts for two years before telling her mum.
She said: “I hid it from my mum and stepdad for a long time and when they actually saw the razor on my wrists, that is when they got the help for me when I was about 15.
“I never really had anyone to talk to and speaking to someone is such a helpful tool.”
Although Tina admits she has not fully recovered from feelings of suicide, she is able to face the day more easily after opening up to other people.
She said: “I still deal with it now but I’m dealing with it a lot better because instead of turning to drink, I talk to my friends and family and that makes me feel so much better.
“It was like a weight had been lifted off me and I felt like a new person.
“I felt happier, freer and alive.”
Now, Tina is looking to get into care work and help others who are feeling suicidal.
She said: “If nobody knows of the groups available to you, go online and talk to people – it’s the best thing to do. Nobody is alone.”
Gavin Elliot, 20, from Broughty Ferry, has been on the edge of the Tay Road Bridge three times and still feels like he has not overcome his suicidal thoughts.
He said: “I was in care since I was about seven. Life was tough from the beginning.
“I tried multiple times to kill myself – whether it was sticking scissors to my throat, jumping off the bridge, trying to hang myself, trying to suffocate myself.
“Anything that I could try, I tried it because I thought the only way out was to end myself.”
He added: “Last time I tried was two years ago when my father passed away.
“I was at the edge of the Tay Road Bridge on the other side of the barrier when police came and they pulled me away.”
Gavin said he kept himself hidden from the world and only started talking to others when his support workers noticed.
He said: “Every day I’d wake up in the morning and think, why? What’s the point in me waking up when it is the same old routine every day? I would spend months on end in my house alone with no visitors – no physical contact, nothing. I sat alone and blocked everyone out.”
After ending up on the bridge, he was taken to Dundee’s Carseview mental health facility but said he did not receive much support.
“People at Carseview would look at me, say I was OK and send me home without any treatment whatsoever,” he claimed.
To get his life back on track, Gavin said he turned to BMXing which has helped him through his difficulties.
Changes to mental health services in Tayside could become the lasting legacy of those who have taken their own lives across the region, it has been claimed.
The independent inquiry into how NHS services are provided began taking submissions from members of the public last week.
Chairman David Strang said he hoped testimony – both positive and negative – would help improve treatment and support throughout the country.
The inquiry was ordered after a public campaign by families who blamed poor care at the Carseview Psychiatric Centre at Ninewells Hospital for a series of suicides.
Gillian Murray, whose uncle David Ramsay took his own life after being turned away by Carseview, has been at the forefront of the campaign for the inquiry and said it could be a chance for “real change”.
And she said it was vital that people with experiences of mental health services “stand up and be counted”.
She said: “This crisis has been on-going for over a decade and NHS Tayside have been aware of the failings but done nothing.
“If they were genuinely committed to change; it wouldn’t have taken for my uncle to lose his life and for me to campaign through to parliament, first at First Minister’s
Questions then the debate to get an inquiry.
“The same issues have been raised time and time again about NHS Tayside mental health.
No lessons have ever been learnt thus far. Lives have been lost and others shattered – this is a crisis that will have ripple effects felt down the years.”
Ms Murray said she remained angry about the lack of treatment given to her uncle.
“I will never forgive NHS Tayside, nor forget. I can only hope that real change happens as this is a living hell and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy,” she said.
“Each and every person needs to stand up and be counted by coming forward with testimonies and evidence to illustrate the scale of this crisis.
“Change needs to happen and those who have lost their lives should never be forgotten – this is their legacy.
“They may have been failed but their preventable deaths may prevent others suffering the same fate.”
Evidence can be submitted to the inquiry by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by writing to Independent Inquiry, 15/16 Springfield, Dundee, DD1 4JE.
Exam stress and debt coupled to lack of support is creating increased stress and depression
University students face a mental health crisis due to exam pressures and spiraling debts.
Student body NUS Scotland issued the stark warning as new figures reveal that students seeking counselling has nearly doubled in the past five years.
There were 8,180 requests for counselling support in 2016/17, up from 4,541 in 2012/13/
Although greater awareness of mental health support partly accounts for the rise in those seeking help, NUS Scotland says student mental health is worsening because of exam stress, part-time working and debt.
There are now 55 part time counsellors in Scotland’s universities compared to 21 in 2012.
The body is calling for increased resources from the Scottish Government to tackle the problem.
Liam McCabe, president of NUS Scotland, said: “Across Scotland, universities are seeing demand rocket, while resources are increasingly stretched.
“While everyone can experience mental ill-health, student life comes with huge pressures – from balancing study with part-time work to finding a new home or a job come graduation time.
“While it’s vital to tackle the causes of these pressures it’s also crucial that counselling services are in place to help those students whose mental health is affected.”
Andrew Reeves, chair of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, called for better support for students in universities.
“It is deeply concerning if universities are considering downgrading or reducing counselling services within their institutions, particularly surrounding complex mental health needs amongst students,” he said.
David Lott, deputy director of Universities Scotland, said the welfare of students was a top priority.
“We want to help our students with their problems as early as possible and students in need should speak to staff,” he said.
“We are aware that the demand for mental health services is rising at our institutions and that, more broadly, there are challenges faced by these type of services.
“We also know that poor mental health does not discriminate when it comes to age, status or background.”
More than 5,000 young people in Scotland have been denied mental health treatment during the wait for a national probe into rejected applications.
Nicola Sturgeon was challenged repeatedly at First Minister’s Questions on her government’s progress in tackling mental health issues.
Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said the SNP administration has let down vulnerable children by taking more than a year to complete an investigation into why so many youngsters are not getting the treatment they seek.
In Tayside and Fife alone, 816 young people have been knocked back by Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services since last March, when the government promised to launch the review.
Labour’s analysis of the Scottish Government figures showed the national figure was 5,410.
“Nicola Sturgeon once claimed she had a sacred responsibility to make sure every young person gets the same chance to succeed,” Mr Leonard said.
“She has abdicated that responsibility to some of the most vulnerable children in Scotland.”
Ms Sturgeon said the results would be published on June 12, adding there are legitimate reasons why children are not offered CAMHS treatment.
“We announced an audit, we had to plan how that audit was going to happen so that we get it right,” she said.
“The work is now underway and I’ve given the progress report on that.
“It’s important that we get that work right in order that the action that flows from it are the right actions.”
She added that the 2017/18 budget for mental health exceeded £1 billion for the first time, while the CAMHS workforce has increased by 65%.
Meanwhile, Jenny Marra, the Labour MSP, asked what progress had been made towards setting up an emergency mental health unit in Dundee that provides 24-hour support.