An Abertay University student who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after witnessing the death of her uncle is urging others not to be afraid to seek support.
Lara McDonald - who studies Mental Health Nursing - was just 11-years-old when her uncle died in an horrific motorbike accident.
To the outside world, it appeared as though she was coping well. She acted like any other child of that age. In reality, she was dealing with grief, anxiety, nightmares and harrowing flashbacks.
Lara – now 25 – has chosen to share her story on World Mental Health Day in the hope of helping people who’re going through similar trauma.
She said: “I’d gone through something awful, and because my symptoms weren’t visible until I was older I wasn’t treated immediately.
“Around four years after the tragedy I was finding it difficult. I started self-harming, and I started drinking. When I was 17 my family stepped in and took me to my GP.”
Lara was placed on medication, before being admitted to hospital when she was 18.
This was a turning point for her: “It took me a while to get to where I am now, and I spent a lot of time just surviving, going between home and hospital. But the support I received absolutely changed my life.
“It was directed at the very route of the issue and gave me the tools I needed to know how to cope with what had happened.
“One thing that made a huge difference to me was volunteering. It was something that my Community Psychiatric Nurse suggested to me, and at first I wasn’t keen on the idea.
“Eventually I started training to be a befriender. I’ve been matched with the same person for two years now, and I see him twice a month.”
The support Lara received gave her the confidence she needed to thrive. She’s now an ambassador for the Year of Young People and is a board member on the Scottish Government’s National Suicide Prevention leadership group.
She also volunteers with the charity SAM-H and is keen to open up the conversation surrounding mental health: “It’s important people aren’t afraid to seek help. It’s OK to do that. If you’re struggling, you deserve help.
“With the right support you can be the best version of yourself. You should never give up. It‘s taken me years to get to where I am and if you’re struggling right now I promise you’ll be OK in the end.”
Lara is now a first year Mental Health Nursing student at Abertay University. It’s something she loves studying: “I’m looking ahead to the future now. Firstly, my ambition is to graduate of course! After that I’d like to move into a managerial role or perhaps even a political role within the field of mental health.”
If you need to speak to someone, support is available via the University Counselling Service, which provides confidential, non-judgemental, one-to-one counselling - including on-the-day appointments for those requiring to see a counsellor urgently.
To make an appointment call 01382 308833 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also contact the Samaritans 24-hours-a-day on 116 123
For more information about Abertay’s Mental Health Nursing course visit: https://www.abertay.ac.uk/course-search/undergraduate/nursing-mental-health-nursing/