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Lara's Story: Life-Changing Support

Lara, 22, was in foster care growing up. When she reached 16, she was referred into Centrepoint by social services where she stayed until she started uni.

Lara describes the mental health support she received at Centrepoint as life-changing. She is now at university studying Maritime Law and will be able to access the Centrepoint Bursary for extra financial support for the duration of her studies.

Lara's Story: Life-Changing Support

Lara was first supported by Centrepoint whilst at college, where she began to struggle with her learning.

“I was doing A-levels in Physics, Maths and Chemistry and really struggling,” she explains. “My family were pressuring me to get into medicine; my grades weren’t high enough for it, but they were high enough to do bio-medical sciences at university and then transfer.”

The stress of keeping her family happy meant Lara was constantly anxious about her studies and was no longer enjoying her classes. Not being able to afford a private tutor to help, she was worried about the future of her education. That’s when Lara decided to talk to her keyworker.

“I told her it felt like agony to do all of that. She was amazing – she managed to get me a volunteer chemistry tutor, which helped keep me in school. She also arranged an appointment with the careers advisor, which helped me think about what I actually wanted to do, not what I felt I should do. So I changed course to study Law. I’m so glad I had that conversation with her, otherwise my life would have been on a course of imposter syndrome and feeling like a failure.”

During the first year of her degree, Covid struck. Lara found this period immensely challenging.

“When the pandemic hit, my mental health took a nosedive. Everyone went home to their families and I was alone in halls. There was nobody there apart from a handful of international students who couldn’t get home. I felt as though I wasn’t capable of being independent and had complete ego death; I felt like I was going to die.”

That’s when Lara asked to be re-referred to Centrepoint. Initially the idea was that she would go there for the summer term until university resumed. But when they announced everything would be online, she felt it would be preferable to take a year out and come back to her course when things were back to normal.

“I got a job I wanted in local government. It was really good for me, I became high-functioning again and my confidence improved. I learnt how to speak in meetings and be professional. I’m really proud of myself for that.”

Mental health support

During that time, Lara was able to access Centrepoint’s psychotherapy service which put her in a better place to go back to university when the time came.

Lara was given regular therapy sessions, which she says had a huge impact on her well-being.

“[Centrepoint psychotharapist] Stephen is far more than a counsellor. It was just the way he spoke to me and the way he worked with me. It made me realise the importance of being self-aware. I began to understand why I was anxious or depressed.

"When we first started working together, I was in a position where I felt like I couldn’t look under the carpet and see what was bothering me. I thought that once I got the grades, once I got the degree, all my worries would just disappear. He taught me that if I understand why things make me upset and why things make me happy then I can change things. The work he did with me was life-changing.

“Centrepoint had their own waiting list for mental health support that was so much shorter than CAMHS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service] or NHS. That waiting list just doesn’t go down - it can take at least eight months before you get to see someone. With mental health, you can’t wait that long or you'll spiral. I was seen at Centrepoint within a month and the quality of the service was so good.”

Bursary

Whilst at university, Lara has access to the Centrepoint Garrett University Bursary, which provides termly payments to support young people in the way that a parent may support a child with supplementary income whilst at university. For those without family support, it can make a big difference.

“The Centrepoint Bursary helped me buy revision guides because my library didn’t have things like that. I bought myself some driving lessons because my university is in Surrey. I also bought subscriptions to Lexis and Thompson Reuters to keep me informed and up-to-date with policy changes to laws. It gives me access to information that isn’t readily available and direct access to cases, so it has been invaluable. The cost of everything is so expensive and if you’re not working, you can barely afford to eat if you’re at uni. I just wouldn’t be able to afford those things otherwise.”

Of course, Lara still struggles, but she feels like she is moving in the right direction. We have complete belief that she will go far. Good luck Lara!

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