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Lean on Us

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Meet our 'Lean on Us' ambassadors - #LeanOnUs

Meet our first  # LeanOnUs  ambassador: 

Niamh Teeling, BA Economics & Social Studies 2015

Loves music, dancing and volunteering.

What's your story?

"In my first year of university, I struggled with relationships, and not fitting in.

I met with an S2S Peer Supporter, and she really helped me ease my anxieties about fitting in, self-esteem and relationships. I felt so much weight lifted when I could talk to her in confidence and know that someone had my back. A few sessions with her, and I already felt I could handle college life a lot better.

In final year, the pressures of being chairperson of a student society, as well as being in the final year of a stressful and pressurised degree all caught up with me.

I had a perfectionist view of how my study should be going on a day to day basis, and that took its toll on me over time, as I beat myself up over not sticking to my plans. On top of that, I was really feeling under pressure trying to run a student society, and deal with the many issues there. I felt a personal responsibility to sort those problems, instead of asking for help.

I went to the Student Counselling Service, where my counsellor helped me devise a way to tackle my study plan, and encouraged me to organise dedicated chill or “me” time so that I could take a break and not be feeling guilty.

The bottom line: Asking for help is so difficult. But the weight you feel lifted when you can tell someone your problems, issues, hang-ups in a non-judgemental atmosphere is beyond what you’d imagined it would feel like from times of despair and anxiety." Tell us about your life now, and what keeps you on track?

"I work as an IT Professional in a busy software development centre. I am lucky that when I finish my work in the evening time, I can walk away and not have to worry about it until the next morning (most of the time). I also volunteer with the Irish Girl Guides, so my personal inbox is always buzzing with things to do.

I exercise 3-4 times a week and this helps me clear my head after a busy day. I set aside one evening a week minimum, to do nothing but watch TV, read, or go for a walk. I also set aside one evening a week to reply to all my emails, so that everyday I am not scrambling to reply or get odd jobs done. I find I’m more focused on the tasks at hand, and once they’re out of the way, I can relax."

Meet  # LeanOnUs  ambassador

Joel McKeever, English Studies, 2014
Chair of the Trinity LGBT Staff Network, enjoys rugby & creative writing.

What's your story?
"I was lucky enough to be the first person in my family able to attend university, and I wanted to make use of every service and opportunity available to me. One of the things that drew me to Trinity in the first place was its reputation for a strong support network and holistic learning experience.

During my studies, I experienced significant anxiety and acute stress as a result of my situation coming to the University; both as a result of my upbringing, my living conditions at the time and exasperated by the fact that I didn't recognise my emotional and mental struggles."

Who did you seek support from?

"I had support from a number of student services - College Health Service, S2S, TCD Sport, TCD Students' Union, my tutor, and Global Relations, but my primary support framework was from the Student Counselling Service."

What changed as a result of going to the support services?

"They gave me much needed support at various difficult times through my degree, and gave me the tools and expertise I couldn't have gotten elsewhere to guide me through the obstacles I was facing.

I don't think I would've finished my degree without having these services available, or at the very least it would've taken longer and been much more of a struggle. Having availed of these services and seen the difference they make, I've gone on to work in TCD's student services myself as I feel that enabling people to learn is a fundamentally valuable thing to be part of."

What is the most important message for you to get across?

"Be brave enough to be kind – to yourself first and foremost. The strongest thing you can do, to help the most people in your life, is to forgive and accept yourself. Once you do that, you can live each day in full.

You're going to feel that everyone else in your class is doing fine, that no one else is having the trouble you are - that's not true. No one has a completely problem free time in university and making full use of the student services available to you is the smart decision, it's the brave decision and you won't regret it."


Give a big hand to Christina Hamilton,  # LeanOnUs  ambassador!

What's your story? "I was going through a few rough patches in my life and I needed someone impartial to talk to."

Where did you go for support? A number of places: College Chaplaincy, College Health Service, Student Counselling Service, TCD Students' Union, Your Tutor / the Senior Tutor, and Global Relations!

How did it help? "I got to see my life from a new perspective and learn how I deal with my issues so that I can be more prepared on the future. I don't think I'd still be in college if it wasn't for the support services in college."

What would you say to someone who needs support, but is reluctant to seek it?
"There is absolutely no shame in asking for help. The services are there to make sure you're OK and so that you can understand yourself more. There are people waiting to listen if you need it."

Christina did a BA in Drama & English Studies, 2010.
Christina is also a current student, and the Global Room Ambassador


Meet  # LeanOnUs  ambassador

Liz Bourke, BA TSM Ancient History and Archaeology, 2010
PhD Classics, 2016.
Into writing, weight lifting, cycling, and climbing.

What's your story?
"When I was in my first year in college, I suffered a nervous breakdown. It was the first time it had ever happened to me. I was depressed and anxious; everything seemed grey and pointless, when it wasn't terrifying. I felt worthless, a waste of space as a human being, and I had suicidal thoughts. Having no close friends at the time made everything harder.

How did you come to find support?

"I was late with several assignments, everything takes so much more energy when you're fighting your own brain. But I was still living at home at the time, and my mother chivvied me out of bed, and I knew I had to at least try to figure out something.

I knew that wanting to die every time you thought about all the work you hadn't done wasn't right. So I went to my lecturer's office. I didn't know how to explain myself or get the help I needed. Halfway through trying to explain why my paper was late and why I was asking for an extension, my lecturer noticed I was shaking and dry-washing my hands and said something, and I ended up breaking into tears in her office.

She walked me through the process of getting her as my tutor, and rang up the College Counselling Service and made an appointment for me while I watched. Later, she helped arrange my transfer to another course, and for me to repeat my first year entirely on a medical exemption.

I attended several counselling sessions at the College Counselling Service, and that first time really helped save my life. I went to my GP for medication to help keep me on a more even emotional keel.

What changed as a result of seeking help?

"It took me six months, to really learn how to think again. Over the next few years, I learned how to socialise. I developed a group of friends, both online ones and ones in my course.

I joined clubs, I hung out in a good community of people online, several of whom became close friends, and some of whom talked me through dark nights of the soul, and helped me learn how to be kind to myself.

What did you learn?

"Probably the most important thing I learned was that brains are complex and delicate things. Neurochemistry does not necessarily respond to logic. There is no "should" when it comes to feelings.

Mental distress is just as real as the physical kind. Half the problem with looking for help in the first place was feeling that it was "all in my head" -- well, yeah, but what makes me me is also all in my head.

Learning to recognise when I was beating myself up for utterly minor things, or holding myself to standards that I'd never hold anyone else to, or flashing on images of self-harm because that was how my brain was processing its distress - that helped.

Medication is also useful to me. It's not a panacea. It didn't miraculously "make me well." It made dealing with things easier. Still difficult, sometimes, but easier."

What's the most important message for you to get across?

"No matter how you feel, you're not alone. You're not a failure. You're worth the effort involved in finding help. Your illness doesn't need to define you.

My experience of mental illness has been like that of a chronic illness. For me, that means I have to put more effort into managing my energies and my limitations than some people do.

But what's important for me, talking to other people about it, is that - this happens! It happens to a lot of us, and it is something that can be managed.

And it can get better."


Meet  # LeanOnUs  ambassador

Bronagh Gallagher, Clinical Speech & Language Therapy, 2016
Enjoys music, reading, and travel - works in Singapore.

What's your story?
"In final year, I was unsure what to do after graduating. Our class had a lecture with one of the careers consultants from the Careers Advisory Service. This lecture was really helpful as it outlined some of the options available to us after graduation. Afterwards, I decided to make an appointment to speak to the careers consultant individually, as I was was still unsure if I wanted to work in my field of study immediately, or take some time out to travel.

What difference did the service make to you?

"I found the Careers Advisory Service to be really useful. I got practical, objective advice about the pros and cons of working within my field versus taking time out to travel. While this information was available online, being able to discuss it with someone who knew exactly how the system worked allowed me to settle down and focus on what was most important at that point- actually getting the degree! I now work abroad in the field that I studied in - so I feel like I have a achieved a happy medium between the two.

I think my final year would have been more stressful if I hadn't talked to someone. The additional support gave me some perspective and allowed me to focus what I needed to do to graduate."

What would you say to a student who is hesitant about using support services?

"I would say that there's no shame in asking for help if you need it, regardless of whether your problem is big or small. These services are there to be used and it's completely normal to access them."


Lean on Us was generously funded by the Visual Arts Fund, and supported by Alison Oldam and all of the student services.

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