After Oliver’s closest friend killed himself, he found it incredibly hard to cope.
He struggled through the summer holidays, just trying to get through each day.
Back at university, he found himself increasingly isolated and unable to focus on his course, friendships, or student life.
Six weeks into the new term, he realised something had to change.
That’s when he contacted a university counsellor.
“I had a lot of emotional baggage that was crushing me,” said Oliver who is in his second year of a civil engineering degree at the University of Sheffield.
“It’s been really beneficial to have someone who I can be completely honest with. Who I can talk to about how I’m feeling and how I’m doing.
“I’ve always felt a burden. I don’t want to put stuff on other people’s plates – but I don’t feel like that when I’m talking to my counsellor.
I'm being understood
“I know I’m not completely alone – and that I’m being understood. I know that what I’m feeling isn’t wrong.”
Oliver has struggled with his mental health during the past five years. He has been depressed, has self-harmed and been on medication.
But the sudden death of one of his longest friends last summer had a huge impact on him.
“Things had been going better with my mental health, but Peter’s death really derailed me.
“I don’t think I really thought or took stock of the loss. I didn’t cry until after the funeral.
“It was very hard to be around people. I couldn’t really talk about it.
“I was just trying to get through the summer. I had resits which didn’t help.”
Oliver continued to struggle when he returned to Sheffield for the new university term.
“I was keeping everything close to me. I wasn’t really socialising. Every day I was just going home to my flat and crying. I could not stop thinking about him.
“It was really hard being an active member of society. I could not sleep.
“But life was going on still. I still had to do my degree.”
Six weeks into the university term he knew he couldn’t carry on like that.
Needed to keep going
“I realised that that wasn’t sustainable and that it wasn’t what Peter would have wanted. I needed to keep going for him.”
Oliver spoke to staff in the engineering department who recommended he visited the university counselling service.
“I knew I needed to speak to someone with experience of these issues. I wanted to be able to talk honestly and just get someone’s objective thoughts on what I was going through. Someone who wouldn’t judge me.”
Oliver said his counselling sessions have helped him understand that how he is feeling isn’t wrong and help him view his emotions in a different way.
And it’s helped him get through the grief of losing such a close friend.
“I was quite angry at myself and a lot of people about everything. I felt guilty.
“I look back on a lot of things growing up with a skewed lens. There was a lot of self-hatred.
Look at underlying issues
“But through counselling I have been able to unpick that and look at the more underlying issues. It’s helped me to get through that distortion that I see. It’s helped me get through the grief of losing a friend.
“I’m getting out there and experiencing university life now. I’m starting to see glimpses of the person who I am deep down.”
Oliver has found the confidence to become more involved in extracurricular university activities.
He’s organising a large science fair that will be attended by up to 2,000 children.
As part of this project, he’s been managing people and leading two-hour meetings.
It was a big jump for him to agree to get involved.
“I wouldn’t have put myself forward for this or made this jump if I hadn’t been able to talk through those feelings around Peter. I wouldn’t have the confidence to have made that jump.”
His sessions with the university counsellor will continue.
“It’s allowed me to get something more from university life.
“I know this is the first steps. I’m not all the way there yet.
“But it’s definitely helping,” he added.
“The main thing about the university counselling service is they genuinely care.
“When I was in my darkest place. I knew I had a person to go to who listened, that I mattered to and who genuinely wanted to help me in whatever way they could. I’m really grateful for that.”
To find a BACP counsellor or psychotherapist visit our Therapist directory.