Natalie, Student Wellbeing Champion, talks about her experience with the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service and shares her tips to prepare for your first appointment…
Accepting that you have a mental illness is not an easy thing to come to terms with. I have suffered from depression and anxiety and I remember how long it took for me to finally get professional help. Why? For me, it just seemed so daunting to put myself in a new situation. I was anxious because I did not know what to expect. I kept thinking that eventually the feeling would get better, but it never did. Even when I decided to get help, I still wondered if there was any way in which I could help myself prepare for my first appointment to ease the anxiousness.
I’m writing this with the hope that some of you may be able to relate and find it helpful. If you are having doubts about going to talk to a professional because the idea of it scares you (just like it did with me), here are some tips on how to prepare for it.
Tips to overcome your appointment anxiety
1. Book your appointment. Firstly, if you are thinking about getting professional help and haven’t already booked an appointment, here is a good place to start. Cardiff University offers counselling and support at the Student Support Centre (50 Park Place). At busy times, you may have to wait, so it would be a good idea to book the appointment as soon as possible if you think you need it. If you feel that you need more urgent help or your mood is very serious, please see your GP while you wait for an appointment.
2. Have a list of things you would like to talk about. Days before my first appointment, I remember getting more and more anxious. I didn’t know where to begin to tell the counsellor what I had been through and all the thoughts and feelings that were affecting me. It made me so anxious that I considered not going to the appointment. However, my boyfriend suggested that I make a list of the all the things I wanted to say. At first I was reluctant, but after having written everything down and seeing the words on a piece of paper, all the thoughts floating in my head slowly made sense again. When it came to the day of the appointment, despite being nervous, I thought to myself: at least I know what I want to say to the counsellor.
3. Don’t doubt your problem. More often than not, I found it quite easy to talk myself out of going to the appointment. If I had a good day, I would think to myself: “Why should I go in? I had a good day and I’m fine again.” Of course, while I was hoping this was the case, there were also days far worse than that. Days I didn’t want to get out of bed. Days I couldn’t do anything. If I didn’t push myself into getting help, I probably would still be in a cycle of ‘good days’ and ‘awful, awful days.’
Mental illnesses are not uncommon, and they require treatment just as physical ones do. If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t second guess or doubt the problem, and mental illnesses should be treated in the same way. Thoughts like “my problem isn’t big enough, everyone feels this way” may seem reasonable, but consider it this way: if everyone had broken legs, they would all need to go to the doctors and get help. So why would it be different for a mental illness? Don’t let that be a factor that’s stopping you from getting help. If you feel stressed or distressed, there is always someone for you to talk to, even if you don’t think your problem is ‘big enough.’ The Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service is here to help you no matter what – no matter how big or small you may think the problem is.
4. Do your research on all the help and support available. Depending on what you are going through and how you want to approach the illness, there are many options available from the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service. Whilst there is the option of doing 1-to-1 sessions, you may feel that other types of therapy could also be beneficial to you. For instance, you have the option of doing a Mindfulness course or completing the Living Life to the Full course. These workshops and courses focus on being aware of negative thoughts and trying to change the way you think. If you are having relationship difficulties, the TALK programme may be useful to you. Alternatively, if you are going through a stressful event and trying to overcome adversity, the Stronger Day by Day course is an option available to you.
You could also talk to the Wellbeing Champions, who will give you a peer ear, listen without any judgements and signpost you to the different help options available to you.
5. Remember: you are not alone in this and you do not have to get through it all by yourself.
Contacting Counselling Health and Wellbeing
If you are struggling to improve your wellbeing, please know Cardiff University Support Services are here for you – there is no problem too big or too small and we would be happy to provide you with some support. We offer a range of flexible support options including:
- Counselling and Wellbeing Appointments
- Face to Face, Online or Telephone
- Wellbeing Walk-in: Drop-in Service running Monday to Friday
- Wellbeing Workshops
- Therapeutic Groups
- Wellbeing Champion Support
- Self-help resources
Bookable appointments are available via our online referral questionnaire. We also offer a Wellbeing Walk-In Service, Monday to Friday, 3pm to 3.45pm and Wednesday mornings, 9.30am to 10.15am, at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place. We also hold a walk-in service at our Student Support Centre in Cardigan House at the Heath, on Wednesday afternoons 3pm to 3.45pm.
Watch our video and see for yourself that we have friendly and approachable staff. Staff who are able to listen to you non-judgmentally, in a safe and confidential space.
If talking to a member of staff is something you are not sure about, why not chat to one of our Student Wellbeing Champions. They are trained student volunteers who can signpost you to support, offer you a peer ear and give you basic health and wellbeing advice. If you would like to see our Champions in action, check out their video.
If you are worried that you are experiencing physical symptoms that may be affecting your health, we strongly advise you to make a GP appointment to discuss this. If you do not already have a GP, please contact NHS Wales on 0845 46 47 or check out their website to view all of your GP options. The University also has its own GP Practice – Park Place Surgery for those in their catchment area.
Your feedback and help please
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Natalie, Student Wellbeing Champion.
The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including: Advice and Money, Careers and Employability, Counselling, Health and Wellbeing, Disability and Dyslexia and International Student Support.
For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.