The way uni treated me was ‘laughable’ says finalist who planned suicide

‘It felt like I was passed from person to person’

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A finalist who nearly killed herself claims she was shunned by the uni health service.

After a dangerous surge in young people suffering from depression and anxiety, brave Hayley, 22, has spoken out about her condition.

She blasted her “laughable” treatment saying she felt let down by the counsellors who she thought would help her.

The French and Economics fourth year has lived with depression since she was a teenager but began suffering again through uni. She was diagnosed in February this year.

Despite the uni knowing about her problem, lecturers were not told and continued to ask why she wasn’t in lessons.

And now she’s demanding improvements to help other students who might be suffering from depression after receiving hundreds of emails to her blog for tackling her condition.

At the peak of her condition, Hayley planned to kill herself in her room at uni. When her boyfriend managed to stop her killing herself, he contacted the Vice Chancellor Sir David Greenaway.

Hayley says she was promised therapy but never received it, and now she has spoken about the lack of pastoral care.

She claims: “It felt like I was passed from person to person just to save their reputation. They’ve never chased me up. For all they know I could have killed myself.

“Our university prides itself on being a research uni, but I think this takes preference over the students well being.

“Because it’s such a good uni, it feels like they expect us to do it on our own.

“Mental health is neglected across the country, and it’s because there’s a stigma attached to it.”

Hayley noticed her condition worsening in first year and contacted the counselling service.

“I became a recluse. They weren’t unhelpful but I felt like I was wallowing in self pity – it didn’t make me feel better.

“My tutor didn’t know I had depression. I told him I was worried about the modules I’d failed, and he said ‘I needed to think about why I failed.’

“I ended up speaking to a lady in admin for my school and just broke down.”

Hayley became so obsessed with her uni work she would even miss lectures because she didn’t think she had the time. She stopped eating and punished herself for taking time out of studying to even speak to her mum on the phone.

“The way I was thinking was ridiculous. I was living on auto-pilot and just going through the motions. I was convinced I was doing just the minimum amount of work. I’d stop allowing myself to go food shopping. It took too much time out of my day.

“I’d get a loaf of bread at the beginning of the week and have a slice a day, and maybe allow myself a takeaway every now and again.

“I hated how I was acting. I bit my nails until they bleed as punishment. If my mum called I’d punish myself for taking ten minutes out by not eating for two days to make up the time.”

It was around November last year that Hayley considered killing herself for the first time.

“It started as a daydream, I thought if I killed myself I wouldn’t have to do all this work. It was a bit like imagining you won the lottery.

“I remember saying to my mum: ‘Would you still love me if I got a 2:2?’

“I’d got to to the point where there was nothing I could do. Even knowing what I’d leave my four younger sisters with there was nothing that could prevent me from doing it.

“I was planning to hang myself, I didn’t want to do it at home so my parents would find me, or my sisters. So I was going to do it at uni.

“I was going to do it in my bedroom because I thought my housemates could deal with it better than my family could.”

Hayley became so hysterical, she mentioned suicide in passing to her boyfriend. He intervened with help from her housemate and Hayley’s dad. They convinced her to sit her final exam and then drop out.

She found she had to contact the counselling service again to drop out and arranged a meeting. She had to open up to a complete stranger.

“I got quite emotional and told how close I had been to killing myself. Her exact words were: ‘Oh but you seem fine now.’ She just told me to go to reception for my school.”

Hayley claims she was given some leaflets and invited to group sessions and deemed not at risk.

“I remember the counsellor then told me there was a mental health service but I wasn’t at risk – despite me telling her what I had planned.”

Hayley was offered an appointment a whole month later, but this was cancelled the day before by the counselling service by email – Hayley thinks they could have made more of an effort to make sure she was safe.

“They never chased me up. For all they know I could’ve killed myself.”

Her boyfriend, a recent graduate from the Cotswolds who asked to remain anonymous, emailed Vice-Chancellor Sir David Greenaway demanding action.

Sir Greenaway responded two days later promising full help. Hayley was promised cognitive behaviour therapy through the university, so she wouldn’t have to wait on the NHS or seek private treatment.

The health service would also liaise with her school to ensure she was fully supported. Hayley wasn’t registered at Cripps but as the treatment was provided through the mental health service this wasn’t an issue.

But when Hayley went for her treatment, it wasn’t provided to her.

“In hindsight it is clear to me the service is portrayed as something that it isn’t.

“I had to tell my story completely from scratch. I’m feeling exhausted and annoyed at this point. I was back to square one.

“I dread to think how many other students have gone there and told them their suicidal.

“I feel let down. To me, the mental health service they have isn’t one.”

A hazardous rise in anxiety is set to make depression the number one health problem in 2030 as the number of young people seeking advice in Britain has soared by 200 per cent.

The Student Room – which saw a 56 per cent rise in posts about exam stress – says it’s advice forum has reached a peak in people worried about exams last week.

Jack Wallington, Community Director, said: “The shocking rise [in] student stress because of exams is deeply concerning and echoed by the record breaking volumes of stress related discussion we’re seeing first-hand on our site.

“The impact of growing pressure placed on young people’s shoulders by end of year exams is evident.”

The NSPCC have warned that younger teens are increasingly concerned, a situation that wellbeing specialist Tanith Carey called “a ticking time bomb”.

Hayley has since sought private treatment and is improving. She is about to sit her finals but still receives emails from individual lecturers asking about her poor attendance, meaning she has to repeat her story to complete strangers on a regular basis.

She now lives at home and commutes back to uni for her exams and keeps her own blog for advice to fellow sufferers. She was officially diagnosed with depression in February this year.

Both the University and Hayley’s tutor said they would not comment on individual cases when we asked about Hayley’s treatment.