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We spoke to University of Manchester students about what they think of the counselling services

‘My counsellor told me it was like having the sword of Damocles hanging over her’

It's estimated at least one in four students will encounter metal health problems during their time at university. While the University of Manchester has increased funding towards mental health and counselling services, and promised to open the UK's first centralised student mental health centre in 2019/20, many students have described the current counselling services as inadequate.

After a post in FSG criticised the counselling services at The University of Manchester, The Manchester Tab investigated what students really thought of the mental health services at UoM.

Maddie Moss, second year History student

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The staff at the UoM counselling service are amazing, but it shouldn’t take four days of consecutive calls like this to finally get an appointment. Surely there should be better provision in place for the tens and thousands of students that attend the university, especially for a uni that prides itself on ensuring its students’ well being. It shouldn’t take 15 calls over four days to finally get the opportunity to speak to someone. What about the people who need help the most?

"We pay the uni directly each year so it should be better! At least a percentage of the £9,250 we pay should be going to services like counselling which are obviously struggling under the pressure.

Adèle Monique Patel, second year PPE student

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It's a joke considering the fact that the £1 mil + saved by the strikes last year was supposedly being reinvested in the mental health and well being services provided by the uni.

Alvi Hussain, third year Computer Science

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It took three attempts to get through and get an appointment and you literally a have to call at 9am. Once I had an appointment, the counselor made me feel like I was wasting their time. During one appointment I was repeatedly asked "why I've come here" after I had just explained for about 10 minutes why. She literally asked me about four times – "but why have you come to me – what do you want?"

Anonymous third year student

They told me that my particular way of discussing my mental health and self-harm urges (flippant) was hurtful to her and that I needed to stop doing it, as well as ignoring my wishes for what I wanted to focus the session on, which was my dad's hospitalisation.

She instead focused on a row I'd had with a flatmate not to mention attempting to guilt-trip me into not overdosing (a form of self-harm i struggled with) by asking how I would feel if I needed to donate a kidney to a close friend but was unable to due to medical problems from an overdose.

Anonymous third year student

The counselor would overshare about her life and would ask me to not tell anyone along with telling me after I overdosed that working with me was like having the Sword of Damocles dangling over her and about to come crashing down at any moment. She said she was only willing to see me again, if I didn't self harm.

While therapy is a two way relationship and feedback from the therapist to the client is important, this was not done in a professional or sensitive way. Since leaving the service I have found out that other people have had similar issues, including with the same counselor.

The service is only suitable for at best mild difficulties for anything more its ineffective.I was finally referred to the psychiatrist at the counselling service, who told me that my problems were "too complex and deep-rooted" for the service to be able to address. He didn't refer me to any other services or offer other university support. I felt rejected and like the service couldn't handle me.

Madeleine Lynch, fourth year German and Politics student

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Many of these issues are due to lack of resource and under staffing. There are of course people who have had positive experiences with the uni counselling and many have reported that the group sessions can be more helpful than the one on ones.

I rang the counselling service in first year and did that little quiz they had and was seen really soon. The woman was really nice & referred me to a GP, as well as setting me up with a weekly depression workshop and another for eating disorders which I found amazingly helpful!! This all happened within a week.

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Speaking to The Manchester Tab, a university spokesman said: "The mental health and well-being of our students is a key priority and we offer a large range of services including online resources, workshops and same-day appointments. If any students are experiencing issues with the service we would ask them to contact us so that we can investigate and make changes as necessary."