“Two years ago, my life was a mess and I was living each day under a dark, dark cloud,” says Sinead.  

“My head was full of thoughts and emotions that I didn’t know how to deal with and I had no idea where to begin with helping myself.” 

Newly married and holding 7-month-old Lucas on her hip, Sinead is now 22 and immensely grateful for the support she has received from YMCA East Surrey’s Heads Together counselling service. 

“I had never opened up to anyone before,” she says, “but I was desperate to make a change. Unresolved issues from my childhood had left me in despair and out of control, making unwise and dangerous decisions. I couldn’t see a future ahead of me if I continued on the same path – I was depressed and suicidal.” 

The Heads Together counselling sessions proved to be the turning point that Sinead needed. 

“It was such a weight off my shoulders to tell someone everything that was inside me,” she explains. “My counsellor listened to me, believed what I was saying and gave me comfort without judging.” 

Sinead was offered 12 sessions, completing the first six face to face before COVID-19 and lockdown forced the remainder to be carried out online. 

“Zoom made no difference to how valuable the sessions were to me,” says Sinead. “It was still a huge relief to have an hour once a week where I could talk about my feelings and the support remained just as vital.” 

YMCA Counsellor and CBT Practitioner, Hannah Shepherd, says: 

“Sinead engaged really well in sessions, using them to process some difficult experiences from her past and to work on how these experiences impacted her current relationships.” 

Sinead says: 

“Hannah helped me to understand my feelings and emotions and to work out what the triggers are to those emotions spinning out of control. With her support, I have put coping mechanisms in place for the times when I feel overwhelmed.” 

During 2020/21, Heads Together delivered almost 5,000 hours of support in the form of taking and processing referrals and counselling and therapy sessions, mostly with under 18’s. YMCA East Surrey recognises the value of receiving the right support as early as possible and has over 300 children and young people currently waiting for support. 

After her counselling experience, Sinead feels happier and more confident. She met and built a positive relationship with the man who is now her husband and who offered understanding and support from day one.  

“There are still difficult days,” she says, “but now I know how to deal with them. I hope that my story inspires anyone who is struggling with their mental health to seek help like I did – I only wish I’d done so sooner.” 

“Without the YMCA Heads Together counselling, I wouldn’t know where I belonged in the world and I am certain that I wouldn’t have a husband or a child.” 

“Nothing will change what happened to me, but I have accepted it and I’m ready to move forwards with my life.”


Read more about our Emotional Wellbeing and Mental Health services