“Being bullied at school had led to social anxiety which grew to a level where I was struggling with leaving the house,” says 18-year-old Bella*.

“I felt lost. It got to a point where everything made me feel nervous – every single thing – and it was absolutely exhausting. Fortunately, keeping on top of my schoolwork was something which came naturally to me. It could have been so easy to overlook how much my anxiety was affecting my life but I realised I needed to take care of myself and not just my grades.”

Referred by Mindworks Surrey to YMCA East Surrey’s Heads Together counselling service which provides free support to young people aged 11-24 in the local area, Bella opted for online sessions and felt reassured even before her first appointment.

“Throughout the time I was on the waiting list, my counsellor kept in touch, checking in with me on a regular basis. Once the sessions began, she slowly helped me piece together the reasons behind my anxiety, leading me towards discovering for myself why I felt the way I did. It felt so much more friendly than I had thought it might, sitting opposite a professional.”

“We looked at general tools to help tackle my issues and I was free to give feedback on what did or didn’t work for me. I never felt nervous about saying the wrong thing. Among other coping techniques, I’ve learned to utilise an ‘Anxiety Window’ of ten minutes in the evening when I allow myself to think about the things which have caused me anxiety during the day. This works like magic and gives me the control of dealing with my feelings when I have the time to do so.”

“After a lot of bad experiences with people, talking to the counsellor also reminded me that there are so many other lovely human beings. It had been a long time since I’d made any friends, but I realised that I could talk to people and I can build relationships. I have since made three close friends which have made a big difference to my life.”

Counselling has also helped Bella to decide on her future career path and she has enrolled in an Open University degree course which is due to begin in September 2023.

“I realised that living among other students was not for me but I did want to study for a degree. I am taking an Arts & Humanities course and would like to teach in a sixth form after I graduate,” she says.

During FY 2022/23, 1,127 children and young people were given 1:1 support through counselling sessions.

“It did feel a little sad to come to the end of my counselling journey, but I was beaming when I finished. I felt as though I’d hit all of the milestones I’d aimed for and that confidence has remained with me. Now, every day I wake up and I have a more positive way of looking at life.”

“There is nothing wrong with admitting that you need a little extra help when you are struggling. The initial step is the scariest and reaching out to make contact is the hardest part. It only gets better from there. I definitely wouldn’t be where I am now without Heads Together.”

“Counselling has provided me with a whole different outlook and I can’t see it leaving me.”


*Bella’s real name and photograph have not been used to protect anonymity.