How accessing mental health services changed a life

Setting the scene

Aysha first came into contact with the health and care system for mental health services when she was 16. Being the eldest of five sisters, she was dealing with the pressure of being a role model to her siblings and she went to see a GP with symptoms of depression.

The GP was talking about prescribing anti-depressants, but Aysha was keen to look at alternatives and talked about cognitive therapy instead, which really helped her.

Roll forward 10 years and Aysha is talking again about accessing mental health services. This time, extremely challenging circumstances, including being in a controlling and abusive relationship, were the main factors.

“The last two years have been very tough” Aysha tells us. “I felt like I was existing, but not living, and I knew I needed to do something about it”.

Finding support

Things reached a point where Aysha knew something was seriously wrong and she ended up going to Accident & Emergency at Mile End Hospital. There, she was quickly referred to the mental health Crisis Intervention Service.

To give her the support she needed, the crisis service provided her with a therapist to go and talk to about her situation.

“Initially, I wasn’t sure about talking to a stranger as I didn’t feel comfortable with sharing my thoughts and feelings with someone I didn’t know. In reality, it couldn’t have been a better move.

“The consultant made me feel really at ease’, Aysha explains. “Even asking a simple question such as ‘how are you?’ made me feel welcome and that somebody cared”.

In all, Aysha had 10 sessions with her therapist, which talked through her circumstances from childhood to adulthood so that Aysha was able understand what was going on.

These sessions helped Aysha to move on. However, she experienced a dip shortly afterwards and realised that she needed to take on greater responsibility for helping herself too.

“A key part of my treatment was the after-support service, outside of the face-to-face sessions with my therapist at the crisis service. This included a vast array of digital support services, such as podcasts with Tower Hamlets Talking Therapies”.

Making a difference

Aysha felt really safe throughout her treatment and it has changed her life.

“The best thing was talking to a stranger, someone neutral who wouldn’t judge me or share my information with others. I felt that everything I said was in total confidence, which was really important for me, especially given my faith and our culture’.

The support Aysha received gave her back her confidence and even encouraged her to share her writing and poetry online, which she wouldn’t have done otherwise.

“Reaching out to someone outside of your inner circle is so important. In talking to a consultant, you are drawing your picture for them and they mould you back into life.”

Five top tips

  1. Reach out: the support is there, it’s easy to access and it works. Encourage family and friends to use these services.
  1. Talk to people: speaking to a stranger really helps. It is not a sign of weakness in you or in your family and friends.
  1. Persevere: don’t expect it to be a quick fix. One session will not solve everything, so stick with it.
  1. Take responsibility yourself: look at things you can do differently and take advantage of the online resources that are available for you.
  1. Share your story: help break down the barriers of mental health which is often a taboo subject. 

Get in touch with your local mental health support services:

Contact Talking Therapies on 020 8475 8080 or visit https://towerhamletstalkingtherapies.nhs.uk/

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