Is LSE’s Wellbeing Service worth the wait?

By Jessica-May Cox

Content warning: brief mentions of suicidal ideation, discussion of mental health.

Mental wellbeing has become an increasingly important topic of discussion, with seven times more university students reporting a diagnosed condition compared to ten years prior. University students are a particularly vulnerable group, going through rapid changes and often being away from family and familiar support networks for the first time. In addition, the recent pandemic and cost of living crisis has increased loneliness and financial pressures, further contributing to lower levels of happiness. 

When I struggled to adapt to new circumstances in my first year, I decided to try my luck with the LSE Student Wellbeing Service. I have had a lot of experience with mental wellbeing services in the past – throughout secondary school, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, and the NHS in general – but I have not been fortunate enough to call them positive experiences. 

This meant that I did not start this investigation completely free of bias – in fact, my expectations were set quite low. Immediately after signing up to write this article, I was approached by Lucas, a second-year Management student. He lamented that, after citing suicidal thoughts in his self-referral form, he was told to wait three weeks for an appointment.

While Lucas’s account understandably paints the LSE Student Wellbeing Service in a negative light, it is important to understand that they are not a replacement for urgent care response. On the website, they provide several links and numbers for around-the-clock support and encourage contacting 999 if anyone is in immediate danger. Unfortunately, the high demand greatly exceeds the number of practitioners, meaning appointments are not readily available, but this does not necessarily devalue the quality of the counselling and service itself.

Counselling was at the centre of my personal experience, and I was surprised to find that everyone’s first six sessions are free. This means that an undergraduate student is allocated a total of eighteen free sessions over three academic years. Considering that this is a non-government service, this system will serve most students well. 

While going through the services, I kept a note of the timeline of events and what each stage entailed. Just one day after submitting the application form, I received an email with details for an initial consultation appointment. Although it would have been in ten days, I was surprised with how quickly they booked me in; in fact, the ten day period was similar to the waiting times I have experienced in the past, if not slightly better.

The first appointment consisted mostly of signposting, which is when a practitioner provides a list of organisations that may be able to help further. Personally, I found this helpful. While it is possible to approach these services directly, I have experienced firsthand how it can be tiring to research and make sense of them all by myself. This is especially the case in troubling times, where the Herculean feat of finding out what is best for me has stopped me at the first hurdle. 

We agreed that counselling may benefit me, so my advisor sent me a link for self-referral, and once again I was told the next day that I would be able to have an appointment in two weeks. I was satisfied with this, as my goal was not immediate care – although I can understand why waiting several weeks may be frustrating. My aim was to learn what aids I have at my disposal and to establish a swift and practical plan that I may act upon if I am discouraged in my academic work later in the year. 

An FOI request submitted by The Beaver reveals that the number of people entering the service increases by more than double between September and October. Considering there are only three full-time equivalent staff, it is impressive that they are able to keep up, respond, and book appointments so quickly. 

However, the lack of sufficient staff is the main flaw which stands out in the service. Matt, a third-year Data Science student who expressed that the service has “supported [him] in times of crisis”, agreed that it would benefit from more practitioners, as “availability of appointments are sometimes in short supply.”

Nevertheless, I believe that the people who already work at the Wellbeing Service are passionate about their jobs. I had a total of two sessions with my counsellor, and she instantly made me feel comfortable and helped me establish a sense of agency. When I confessed that I did not know what to do, she excitedly exclaimed, “That’s why I’m here!”

Her wholesome dedication was reinvigorating compared to the many cold and awkward counselling sessions I’ve had in the past. The counsellor encouraged me to book office hours with LSE Life, as well as to call my GP and resume my case with the Primary Care Service during the Zoom appointment. All the while, she consistently praised me for being proactive and commended me for using the service before I found myself in a bad spot. After admitting that I didn’t think my situation was “too serious”, she assured me that the services were equally supportive for all cases. Even if you are trying to find ways to support yourself further down the line, they are there for you.

My counsellor and I decided to save my free sessions in case I needed them later in the year, but I could easily resume by emailing the counsellor directly instead of starting back at square one, which would definitely help with reducing wait times. It also put me at ease regarding anything that might occur in the future.

Overall, I waited for nearly four weeks before my first counselling appointment – ten days for the consultation appointment, and another fourteen days for counselling. This might be demoralising for those who require urgent care, but once you have had your initial appointment, I absolutely believe you have a strong support network for your academic life. 

Ultimately, my experience with the LSE Student Wellbeing Service was swift and short, but it left a lasting and positive impression on me. I was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm of my counsellor and the wide scope of the service, putting my previous experiences to shame. The wait times may be unsatisfactory in pressing situations, but that is even more of a reason not to wait. Our university has an extremely useful tool readily available to all students; I regret not utilising it sooner. 

If you are contemplating using the services, even if it’s just for peace of mind, I strongly encourage you to do so. 

Illustration by Paavas Bansal

Jessica-May recalls her personal experience with the LSE Wellbeing Services. Is the two-week waiting period worth it?


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

On Key

Related Posts

scroll to top