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 jo@samaritans.org.uk.

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