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‘You should never give up’: Anstruther student talks of seeking help for mental health issues

An Anstruther mental health nursing student who battled PTSD after witnessing the death of her uncle is urging others to seek support.

Abertay University student Lara McDonald was only 11 when her uncle died in a horrific motorbike accident.

Guardbridge man Ian McDonald was taking part in a race meet at Knockhill racing circuit in 2014 when the tragedy happened.

To the outside world, it appeared as though the youngster was coping well.

But acting like any child of that age actually masked the reality of what Lara was going through.

Lara, who is now 25, was really dealing with grief, anxiety, nightmares and harrowing flashbacks.

Bravely, she has chosen to share her story on world mental health day in the hope she might help other who are going through similar trauma.

Recounting that time, 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.”

Her worried family stepped in and took her to a GP when she was 17.

Put on medication, she was admitted to hospital a year later.

That was a turning point.

“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 which made a “huge” difference to her was volunteering.

Suggested by her community psychiatric nurse, Lara wasn’t initially too keen on the idea.

But eventually she started training to be a befriender.

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 SAMH 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.”

The Samaritans are available at www.samaritans.org or on 08457 909090.

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