STAART student ambassador João Martins tells his story


A graduate in BSc Psychology with Counselling and current student in MSc Therapeutic Counselling, João Martins tells us more.

This article is also included in the most recent edition of the STAART newsletter.

My name is João, I am 30 years old and I live with anxiety and complex PTSD.

I have just graduated from my BSc in Psychology with Counselling and am currently studying a MSc in Therapeutic Counselling, also at the University of Greenwich.

My journey with STAART:

Having STAART during my degree was an immense support for me. It was like having cheerleaders all the way to the finish line. With every struggle, there was always someone there to give me support, advice or simply listen to me. I have a tendency to not believe in my skills and to be really hard on myself, which stems from a childhood filled with people telling me I was not good, not worthy and would never amount to anything.

Joining STAART and listening and reading to other people living a similar experience to mine, or simply having non-judgemental and honest support from everyone, was very therapeutic and empowering.

How have I managed in hard times?

Sometimes I would be having the worst day, allowing my ghosts and fears tell me that I was not good enough or that I should just quit studying and go back to waiting tables, and Melanie would just come into the office and change my day. I will never forget the morning after I had a huge fight with my childhood abuser, who had once again come into my life to make me feel small and unwanted, and how Melanie came into the room and gave me the biggest hug and offered me plants for my new house. Before this encounter I was feeling defeated and couldn’t see past all the hurt, but that simple gesture from Melanie really inspired and empowered me and made me look forward.

I tend to be really hard on myself and not really give myself credit for the things that I achieve. I have this song that I listen to when I feel low - it helps remind me to ask for help, to be truthful, to honour all my feelings and to work as a team with my tribe/friends to overcome stressful situations. It says: “People like us we've gotta stick together; Keep your head up, nothing lasts forever; Here's to the damned to the lost and forgotten; it's hard to get high when you're living on the bottom."

What I have gained through Greenwich:

Being on the STAART WhatsApp Group alone was inspiring. Reading and listening to what the other STAART members were going through and how resilient, strong, hopeful and fearless they sometimes were in face of adversity was very inspiring. Being part of such a supportive group has helped me grow as a person and gave me the tools to be able to find the strength within me to keep myself safe. Academically speaking, I was able to graduate with a 1st and be accepted onto the Masters that I wanted to study.

To others I would say - allow space for the good feelings and the bad ones, as they are there to help you or challenge you, but most of all they are there to make you, you. And try to ask for help, even when it is really hard to do so.

The best thing about Greenwich is the support that you get from your lecturers and people like Melanie Thorley, Chris Colson, Nansi Eneva and STAART. I don’t tend to remember or acknowledge my wins when I go through phases where my mental health and trauma play tricks on me. These people relentlessly kept showing me and reminding me of all the things I have accomplished and have been the biggest cheerleaders. By helping me get/giving me new job opportunities during the 3 years I was studying my undergraduate, I have gained invaluable work experience doing jobs that I was once too scared to apply for. They have definitely helped me with my confidence by just always listening to me, acknowledging my feelings and mentoring me.

What now?

I am currently studying a MSc Therapeutic Counselling and have just started working as a Mental Health Recovery Worker. I am currently on a path that feels right for me where I get to support other people. I am so much more confident and courageous than I was 3 years ago; and although I can now give myself credit for a lot of my growth, I know that part of my success comes from the support that I got from the people around me - my partner, my cats, my friends, the STAART family, Nansi Eneva, Yvette Fofah, Sam Morrison, Kimberley Herron, Tasnim Ali, Sarndeep Raven, Christine Colson and Melanie Thorley.

Thank you for sharing your story with us Joao.

Find out more about STAART

You can read our January 2021 STAART newsletter and find out more about STAART - Support through *AccessAbility retention and transition - initiative, on our website.

Student Support - Discover and Connect

Come along to an informative session on 4 March, University Mental Health Day, where you can hear more about the student support services provided by the Student Wellbeing Service, and  find out how we work with students to identify support needs and arrange individualised support for students with a disability, a specific learning difficulty such as dyslexia, or a long term medical condition and/or a mental health condition. Hear from our professional counsellors and mental health team about how they support students with a range of issues, such as anxiety, low mood and stress: enabling students to stay on course and succeed. The panel will also talk about student success stories.