A mature student has revealed to Gair Rhydd details of eighteen turbulent years as a mental health patient.
Wesley Gerrard, 37, is currently studying Translation at Cardiff University’s School of Modern Languages – but for nearly two decades his academic career has been disrupted by a series of detainments.
Gerrard claimed that his extensive experiences with the system have been far from positive and provoked him to set up the campaign site ‘endofterror.org’. The site aims to raise awareness of his experiences – but this in itself has brought him problems.
“As soon as I started publishing stories on ‘endofterror’, I’ve had major police involvement. I came to realise it was dangerous to publish this sort of thing,” he said.
In all, the part-time DJ claimed to have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act on “fifteen to twenty” occasions.
He claimed that his encounters with mental health services started when he was studying for an undergraduate degree in Geography at University College London in 1997.
“I ran into some trouble in London and when I came home, my parents forced me to go to an outpatient appointment.
“Since then I haven’t really progressed or gotten out of the system.”
He said that he was discouraged from undertaking further education by the fact that they “wouldn’t let me out of hospital to complete my exams [and] sectioned me whilst I was preparing my dissertation”.
Despite this, he re-entered higher education with the Cardiff Centre for Lifelong Learning in around 2008, and subsequently progressed to undertake a full degree.
However, he still had encounters with mental health authorities – until an academic “would not accept me pulling out of classes and put me in touch with disability advisor.”
“They said: ‘enough is enough, we’re not going to have this student’s life ruined anymore’. It made me very happy knowing I was going to get some protection from Cardiff University.”
The University’s intervention reportedly caused the mental health authorities to “lay off me”, and despite averaging a sectioning a year he came to an agreement with mental health authorities “not to disrupt his studies for three years”.
However, over the festive period he once again found himself incarcerated at St. Caldcot’s Hospital – and was accused by the authorities of having delusions over his status as a Cardiff University student.
“I tried getting hold of student support but they were away on Christmas break, something my tutor was not happy about,” Gerrard said.
“In the end I managed to get a phone call through, and said ‘I’m in an emergency situation, can you implement the emergency plan to help me out?’”
“They didn’t do anything they’d agreed to. I felt really betrayed by Student Support and Cardiff University,” he claimed.
He alleged that despite showing official ID, it fell to a number of Cardiff University students on placement to confirm his identity.
He subsequently won a tribunal against the National Health Service relating to his treatment over the Christmas period.
He claimed that although his personal tutor continues to be “really supportive”, he was disappointed that “there was nothing directly from the University.”
Gerrard made a number of claims regarding his treatment that we are unable to publish here, but continues to detail his experiences on endofterror.org.
A Cardiff University Student Support spokesperson said that “quite obviously we can’t comment on individual cases, even if the student has opted to speak to you”.
“In such situations it is our aim to ensure that Cardiff University students continue to have access to the facilities here which are designed to aide them with whichever problems they might be experiencing,” they added.