It's reported today by the BBC that far fewer males students than female ones access university counselling and wellbeing services. The report found that male students are less likely to take the first step in asking for help and don't always believe that their problems are serious enough to warrant support - so they don't seek the support they need, and instead, suffer in silence.
Psychotherapy - the word itself can conjure up all sorts of mystical images in people's heads about what it is and what it isn't. Given its a 1:1 relationship, exclusively between two people (the client and the therapist) unless you've experienced it, or know someone who has, how would you know what to expect, or if it's indeed right for you?
And one of the biggest misconceptions is that therapy is there to 'fix you' - when actually therapy is there to help you understand you. Your story. How you see the world. How your mind works. It gives you the opportunity to reprocess things. It can empower you to live a life which isn't defined by your past, and the opportunity to rewrite the story you have been telling yourself.
Ultimately creating a whole new mindset - the foundations of which are built to enable you to see the world in a less threatening, more positive light, and resilient enough to weather the curve balls life throws.
University is a huge milestone in a young persons life - and often the trigger for the onset of anxiety, and its' related disorders, as well as stress and depression. It's a time where many young people find themselves alone for the first time in their lives, under pressure and with the added stress of making new friends. Homesickness is real. And then there are the things that happen at home once they have left which can completely throw them - death, divorce, illness - these are all things that can rock a young persons world when they are away from home for the first time.
As a Psychotherapist, I don't have a 'typical client', the only things my clients do have in common is they need a bit of help. That help might be to feel more positive and confident, to not be anxious, to get some direction, to feel happy again, to not worry about the future, to stop feeling sad, broken or guilty, to help them process grief, to understand themselves more or to help them break negative, repetitive behaviours.
I like to describe the therapy process by giving the analogy of the jigsaw puzzle. My clients hold the pieces to their jigsaw puzzle, but they don't have the picture of the completed puzzle to guide them. They are trying really hard to put the jigsaw puzzle together but they get stuck and don't know where to go next. As a therapist, I help them find that picture, so that they can piece together their own jigsaw.
Psychotherapy gives you the tools to help yourself. You CAN talk your way to mental wellness.
We invest in our physical health to make ourselves look and feel physically better, but when it comes to investing in our mind and our emotional wellbeing, we hesitate, because we don't see it, although we feel it (and we do feel it!) Sometimes, people will do anything, no matter how absurd or irrational to avoid having to face their own soul. Therapy is to the mind, as what exercise is to the body and everyone can benefit from it, because everyone is riding the roller coaster that is life.
One of the biggest challenges when it comes to mental health, is that no-one can see the noise in your head, or the million and one worse case scenarios that play out daily, or the dark thoughts that reside there and others can't feel your pain.
We cannot see an unwell mind.
But what we do see is anger, irritability, low mood, social withdrawl, self medication, self harm, tears, insomnia, panic attacks, hopelessness and a lack of self-care.
These are all symptoms of an unwell mind.
There is absolutely no shame and no weakness associated with asking for help. Seeking help and investing in you is a courageous thing to do and a wise investment in you. Life throws curve balls at us, and sometimes they are just too big, or come in quick succession for us to cope.
If you are at university, or starting university in September, do not be afraid to reach out for help. Contact your student support services - they are there to help you. IT IS NOT A SIGN OF WEAKNESS.
If you are a parent of a young person starting university next month have the conversation with them about the support that is there on campus for them should they need it.
Catherine Asta Labbett, is an award winning Female Focused Psychotherapist. She works with women all over the world offering skype and in person therapy from her Yorkshire clinic base, and in 2019 was awarded a Fellow from the National Council Psychotherapists for her outstanding contribution to her profession.
Catherine works with women at all stages of their life and has also has a growing celebrity client base. The resident expert on the BBC Radio Leeds award winning Stephanie Hirst show and a regular contributor in the media - as heard and seen on BBC Radio 5 LIVE, Grazia, Marie Claire, Women's Health Magazine, Boots, Virgin and more.
Catherine was the winner of the Northern Blog Awards 2018 'One to Watch' and a finalist in the UK Blog Awards 2019. She is a finalist for 'Mentor of the Year' 2019 with Forward Ladies and was voted in the Top 10 extraordinary women in the 2019 Knomo London Awards.
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