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Lucy

Brief Outline: Lucy was referred for counselling by her GP because of anxiety. She rarely sees a doctor now and hadn’t registered with one since moving house two years ago. She advised young people with mental health issues not to hide these or be embarrassed by them.
Background: Lucy is at college and lives at home with her parents. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.

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Lucy recalled going to hospital as a child for blood tests and epilepsy tests with her parents. Later on she usually saw GPs because of anxiety.

Lucy starting feeling anxious around the age of 13 when she was at school. She often had to leave lessons because of it and later found it hard to go to most lessons. Her teachers suggested that she talked to a doctor. 

Lucy saw two GPs, both of whom she liked, but she felt more comfortable talking to the second one. She found that this doctor had a more relaxed and informal attitude, and reminded her of a friend’s mum. Lucy felt that the appointments were a bit rushed but understood that doctors had to keep to short time-slots. 

Lucy’s GP referred her for counselling through CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services). Being used to 10-minute consultations, she was surprised when the counselling session lasted an hour, which she liked. After five sessions of individual counselling, she tried adolescent group psychotherapy. Although she enjoyed these sessions she felt that, because of the format – which focussed on one person’s problem each week – she didn’t really get to know people in the group, why they were there or what their problems were.

Because of anxiety, Lucy struggled at school. She found it very helpful when one of her teachers gave her a pass so she could leave the classroom whenever she needed to. Just having the pass helped Lucy feel more relaxed – she felt that schools should provide such safety nets for all students who struggle with anxiety. When Lucy feels anxious, she finds it helpful having a distraction, e.g., sensory toys like stress balls. She also finds it helpful for schools to have someone that students could talk to if they’re anxious or low, even if all they want to talk about is trivial things such as ‘handbags and chocolate or whatever takes your pick’.

For Lucy, healthcare – especially when it is about mental health – should not only be about ‘being told how to fix things’. She feels that a good GP is someone who listens and doesn’t treat patients as a cluster of symptoms, which is particularly important for mental health. Lucy had also used an online support website called 7 Cups of Tea, which she recommended to anyone who needed someone to talk to. 

As a young person who struggles with anxiety, Lucy liked the idea of being able to talk to GPs via Skype or phone. She also felt that consultations would be better if they were more informal, and if local surgeries had support groups for people with mental health problems, similar to those for teenage pregnancy and alcoholism.

Lucy rarely sees the GP now and hadn’t registered with a doctor since moving house two years ago. She advised young people with mental health problems not to hide these or be embarrassed by them.
 

Lucy felt anxious in class and once started shaking. Her teachers told her to see the GP and to tell her dad.

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Lucy felt anxious in class and once started shaking. Her teachers told her to see the GP and to tell her dad.

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I started to feel like really anxious and I wouldn’t go in to my lesson. And at first it just started off with certain lessons. I was like, “Oh, I don’t wanna go in to there.” Then it started to be like most lessons. So I’d just go and hide somewhere.

Cos you felt stressed about the lessons?

Yeah. And then my way of coping with it was like, “Oh, well, I’ll just like do something a bit stupid.” So the school found out about that. They sort of made me tell them.

And then you went to the, did they say, “Oh you should go to the doctor”? Did they say that or?

Well, I’d already had an appointment with the doctor’s but, like I said, it was for something different at the time. But I can’t quite remember what it was. They were like, “Well, you should probably talk to your doctors. Try and get like referred somewhere. And you need to tell your dad, or else we’ll tell him.”

So if someone else was in that kind of situation, where they don’t want to go to the lessons, they’re feeling stressed out about going to the lessons. Is that how you felt? Or feeling stressed and pressured about that? Was there something about the lessons? Or was it the teachers that you didn’t feel comfortable with?

I don’t know. I just, I remember like one day I just went in to school and I was fine. And then it was like after lunch or something and I went in to my lesson, and suddenly I just freaked out and I was like shaking and all this. So I asked the teacher like, “Oh, can I just go to the loo or something?” And she was like, “Yeah, sure.” So I left the room. And as soon as I left the room I was fine. Then as soon as I went back in it was just, “No.”
 

The appointments Lucy had with her previous GP put her off registering. She also had no proof of her new address and found the receptionists unfriendly.

The appointments Lucy had with her previous GP put her off registering. She also had no proof of her new address and found the receptionists unfriendly.

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I went back for my next appointment, like within the next few weeks, and he [GP] was just talking. And then I was meant to have another one. And I just felt like he was useless, so I just never went. And then I kept on meaning to register to the new doctor’s cos like, “Oh, they’ll probably be better.” I just never got round to it.

So this one you felt was a bit useless, did he give you any advice that you thought “This could help”? Cos you, you went really three times to see him, did you?

I got a lovely leaflet from 2008. It was 2014 when I went to see him.

About?

I can’t even remember. I saw it and I just thought, “This is a load of rubbish.” It didn’t even have anything we talked about on. And I just threw it in the bin. Which was a stupid idea, because it had a website written on it. But it was probably useless like everything else he gave me.

And did you feel you could talk to him? Or did you just think that, “He’s giving me informa-, like things that aren’t actually useful”? Or what, is, you know, is he really gonna be any good?

I just sort of gave up on him after that. I was like, “No, thanks. It was nice whilst it lasted. But no more.”

I think I just sort of prolong it like, “I’ll do it tomorrow. Oh, wait, no, forgot, I’ve got plans today. Do it the next day, do it the next day.” And then I just always forget. And then as well I need to like, you’re meant to have ID with your new address on. I don’t have any ID with my new address on. And so I’m prolonging doing that. I’m prolonging like doing every form of getting there that I can. But, yeah, I should really get round to that.

Is there anything off-putting about going to GPs? When you think, I’d rather go anywhere else but the GP.

I think for me at the moment it’s just more that it’s like I’ve got to go to a new one. So like --

it’s all that process?

Yeah, and you were on about receptionists. Like the receptionist there was so bitchy. Go in and it was like, “Yeah, what do you want?” And it was like, “I just want to transfer. All right?” And then it’s like, “Okay, here’s the forms.” “Thanks. That’s nice.” But, yeah, they were just a bit brash.
 

Lucy was missing lots of lessons because she felt very anxious in the classroom. The school counsellor and her GP advised her to tell her dad.

Lucy was missing lots of lessons because she felt very anxious in the classroom. The school counsellor and her GP advised her to tell her dad.

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So when you were about 13 or 14, is that when you went to the doctor’s first? And did the doctor suggest other services then?

They told me I needed to tell my dad what was going on. Because originally the appointment was for something else. I was like, oh no, I just want to talk about something else. And then, so they said I needed to do that, and then they’d put a referral into CAMHS [Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services]. Or they said that they were going to and they’d write me a letter about it. And they gave me the CAMHS website to look at. And another one, but I can’t remember what it was. But I never looked them up cos it was just big words and I didn’t understand.

So that was when you were about 14?

I think so. I think, no, I was probably 13, yeah.

Did you go by yourself to that appointment or . . ?

My dad went with me, but he wasn’t in the room. Because that day at school had been like a really, really bad day and my teachers were like, “Oh you need to tell your dad. Or you need to tell the doctors or something.” And I was like, “Right, well, I’ve got a doctor’s appointment today. I’ll tell her tomorrow.” And then, yeah....

So you, but you, did you ask your dad to wait outside? Or did he say, “Do you want me to come in with you or shall I wait outside”?

I think --

How did that happen?

-- I’d sort of gotten to that age where I was a bit like I wanted to feel a bit more grown up. And as well, because he didn’t know about what had been going on at school, and sort of stuff I was gonna tell the doctors and that school knew. I was sort of like, “Well, I’ll wait till I can tell him, so he’s not just in there like going, ‘What?’”
 

Lucy knew she could start trusting the counsellor when she had problems finding the building. The counsellor was understanding and made her feel comfortable.

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Lucy knew she could start trusting the counsellor when she had problems finding the building. The counsellor was understanding and made her feel comfortable.

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I think at first I felt a bit uncomfortable cos of my dad going in there. And especially the time my dad was like, “Oh I just wanna talk to, you go outside for a sec.” Cos that made me think like, “Oh they’ve probably said something about me.” Cos I felt like I don’t want stuff about me to have been said if it, if I’ve said it to her confidentially. So that sort of bothered me. But then as soon as my dad stopped going in on the sessions, it was, it felt a lot better. 

And there was this time, cos they moved buildings. And when they moved buildings, the first time I had to go there, I had to go by myself cos I didn’t, like my dad was doing something. I didn’t really have any idea where it was or where I was meant to get off the tram or anything like that. 

So I got off the tram and it was chucking it down. And I think I walked about a mile in the wrong direction. And then I had to walk back and it was just all really horrible. I was like crying. And so I had to phone them like three times to find out where it was. And I finally found it. And then the appointment that I was even going for wasn’t even meant to be with her. It was meant to be with the group of people, to make sure I was definitely gonna go. 

But then she saw me. She was like, “Oh, God, are you all right?” And I was like, “I’ve just gotten lost and it was really horrible.” And so she like took me into her office, found a blanket and gave me that and made me a cup of tea. So I think from that moment I was like, “This one’s all right. I trust this one. She makes me tea. It’s fine.” But, yeah, before that, when it was just my dad going all the time, I was like, “No, I don’t like this.”
 

Different people in the psychotherapy group talked about their problems every week but Lucy never really knew why they’d been referred.

Different people in the psychotherapy group talked about their problems every week but Lucy never really knew why they’d been referred.

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Then she [the counsellor] put me in the teenage psychotherapy group which, so I got put in that. And that was once a week and it was two hours I think. There wasn’t many of us. I think there was me and like four or five other people. And that was all right cos you didn’t always have to talk about serious stuff. And sometimes you could literally just go, have a bit of a break. And I quite liked that. And then she was like, “Oh, we’ll still keep on seeing you through this.” And I was like, “Oh, right, okay.” I think I went to the teenage psychotherapy group for about a year and didn’t have an appointment with her. 

And then I think I really then ended up wanting an appointment cos I was feeling really like low and everything was like really bad. And sometimes like at the group thing, I ended up becoming sort of like the clown. Like, people were down, it was always me that had to cheer them up and I’d have to be the loud, funny one. It was like, yeah, so I never really felt like I could talk there. So this appointment, I think we had about two or three more appointments and that was really about it.

And in the psychotherapy group, were there other people with the same kind of issues, problems, issues that, did it feel comfortable being with people?

Well, I dunno, cos I didn’t really fully know their problems. It would sort of be more like one week someone would have a bad week. Like, someone’s nan would die and then they’d talk about that and they’d be really upset. And then, I think for me one week like my dad was ill, so I was upset about that. But you never really, you never really knew why people had started CAMHS [Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services] and stuff like that.

Was there someone leading the group?

Yeah, there were two members of staff and they were really nice.
 

It was helpful speaking to two pastoral care staff at school. One was very good because she listened and gave advice quite directly.

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It was helpful speaking to two pastoral care staff at school. One was very good because she listened and gave advice quite directly.

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I used to talk to her [pastoral care manager] anyway, just more about general things and stuff that would be going on at home. Cos I’d just be like down about it. But there wasn’t really a gap. She was sort of like, “Well, what’s been going on? Why aren’t you going to lessons?” And so I sort of talked to her about it and I was like, “Yeah, I’ll go, I’ll go. Fine.” But then I wouldn’t, yeah.

Was it helpful talking to her?

Sometimes. Because there was two. There was like the main one that you could go to, for the whole school. And then there was the ones who, particular year groups. And the one for my year group, she was really nice. I really liked her. But she was, I think she tried to relate a bit too much. Cos she’d be like, “Oh, when I was your age, this would happen.” And then she’d sort of turn it to be all about her. And I’m like, “That’s great. I get that you get it. But I’m trying to talk.” But the other one could be pretty helpful. She was, yeah.

What was the difference between the other one? Was she more, listening more rather than talking about her own experience?

Yeah, she listened more. And as well sometimes I think she was a bit like firmer. Not in a like angry, bossy, ‘I don’t care’ kinda way. But she’d sort of be like, “Look, I get you’re feeling this way, but you need to just sort of get on with it.” And sometimes you just needed that. And so that was good.
 

There are support groups at the local surgery for young carers, pregnant women, and alcoholism. A mental health support group run by a professional would be good.

There are support groups at the local surgery for young carers, pregnant women, and alcoholism. A mental health support group run by a professional would be good.

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You know, like walk-in centres. I was like, “What if you got them but for mental health as well?” Like you just went in, had a bit of a chat with someone, although it would be a bit rubbish, wouldn’t it? Because if it was anything like the walk-in centre we’ve got in town where it’s like three hours for an appointment, it would be a bit like you’re sat in this waiting room, waiting three hours to talk to someone. Like, “Oh, no.” And then you go in for like a 10-minute chat. Ignore that. That would be a rubbish idea.

But say it was a walk-in centre or a part, separate, just a separate part of the --

Yeah.

-- doctor’s surgery?

Yeah.

And, you know, you could walk in. Hopefully it wasn’t going to be three or four hours’ wait.

Yeah.

You know, maybe 20 minutes.

Yeah.

That kind of thing. Would that be good? A walk-in centre there, just off the GP’s surgery?

Yeah, yeah, that would be good. Just like a bit like a counsellors, something like that. You’d just go in. It would be like, if they had them like in all local GP’s, so then obviously they don’t get too clogged up. And it’s just like, “Look, I just, I need someone to talk to.”

How about mental health support groups at a GP’s surgery that, say, met up once every two weeks or something?

Yeah.

Made up of people, maybe there’s a professional there. But --

[Mmhm]

-- a support group at the surgery?

That would probably be good. Cos I know obviously you get those groups that’s like pregnant women groups, alcoholics’ groups. And I’ve seen them do them for young carers in the GP near me. But I’ve never seen anything like mental health based.

So that would be good?

Yeah.

And do you think it should be for, like two separate ones? One for over 25 or something and one for --

Yeah, like alternate them. Like maybe a teenage one and an adult one. So like 14, 13 to 18 and then 18 up.

Who, should someone run them?

Yeah.

Like someone who’s been through it? Or a professional of some sort?

Probably a professional of some sort, just to sort of lead it. Cos it would be, like otherwise it could possibly get a bit messy if people have like a difference in opinion.
 

Lucy liked an online forum where people with experience of listening to mental health issues supported those who wanted to talk.

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Lucy liked an online forum where people with experience of listening to mental health issues supported those who wanted to talk.

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I went on a website called 7 Cups of Tea. And that’s basically just for people, you can either be a talker or a listener I think. And I think you pick if you’re above or under 18. And if you’re a listener, you’re signed in to the account. You say what you personally think you’re good at giving advice on. You’ll talk to people and then like people will tell you their problems, they’ll tell you how they’re feeling. 

And it’s just like quite nice cos it’s people that sort of get it. And then people can rate them on how they think they have done and things like that. And it’s like people from all over the world. And it’s like really good. And then if you log out of that, you then become the talker. So you can then talk to them, rate them if you want.

The same person? Or talk to different people?

You can talk to different people. You can talk to like loads of people.
But say if you go on and it’s like your first time on there, you don’t have an account but you want someone to talk to. It could come up with one person and you feel like, “Oh, I don’t like this person.” You can like log out of that chat and go on to a different chat. You can just find someone that you feel good to talk to. You can browse different profiles of people.

Is that through email talking? Or.... 

It’s kind of like more of a Messenger. So sort of like on Facebook, yeah.  That’s pretty good. And then because, when you go on other people’s profiles, it’s often recommended that they write a little bit about themselves, where they’re from, just in case of languages and that. And what they tend to specialise in or what they’re good at talking to or what they’re good with empathising about. So it could be like, “Oh, I know about self-harm, anxiety and...” I don’t know, whatever, whatever they might put. So that’s a good website. I like that.
 

Distractions help when you’re feeling anxious, including stress balls.

Distractions help when you’re feeling anxious, including stress balls.

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“If you ever feel funny, I’d recommend sensory toys.” It sounds really rude. But it’s not. Like so just something that you can preoccupy yourself with. So sometimes if I’m in a lesson and I feel a bit funny, I like to do something with my hands. So I’ve got this thing. And it’s like one of those puzzly things. And you unravel it and then you’ve got to try and make a cube out of it. And it’s just really sensory. It takes my mind off everything that’s going round. And it’s really good. 

And the teachers can’t tell you off for it cos it’s not a phone. And then you can just sort of explain like, “Look, I’m just distracting myself.” And they seem to understand. Or you could play with like a stress ball, other of these things. I can’t remember what they’re called. But they like link together. And they’re just, oh, so fun. I love them, unravel them. 

Are you allowed to --

Sensory things.

Are you allowed to have them in class? Which helps kind of.

I was at college. I’m not sure if I’d have been allowed at school. Because kids might have been like, “I want one. I want that.” But, yeah.

So you recommend that kind of thing that’s --

Yeah.

-- a bit of a distraction?

Like, and it can be like good for wherever you are really. Like if you’re just on the bus. It’s just like pull it out your bag. Cos it’s like really small.
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