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My Story: 'I struggled for months but then found a place that was perfect'

15 August 2018
Image for My Story: 'I struggled for months but then found a place that was perfect'

Patrick Cronin was delighted with his CAO offer of a mechanical engineering course, and grabbed the opportunity with relish.

"I was so happy and excited to leave home and start my life as an adult; everything was perfect at that time," says Patrick.

But his first year in college proved stressful. While he enjoyed many aspects of the Level 7 course at IT Sligo, two subjects were causing him bother, and he also started struggling with his mental health.

"With the stress and anxiety it eventually all became too much. I had never dealt with this type of stress before and, even though I had my friends with me, I started to feel alone," says Patrick.

He ended up dropping out, but opted to stay in Sligo, to seek work or some other training opportunity.

"I struggled for months before finally hearing about a place that sounded perfect to me," says Patrick. That was the National Learning Network (NLN), part of the Rehab Group, which has training colleges all over the country taking on students who either have a disability, illness or mental health issue, and gives them the training and skills to either get a job or go on to further education/third level. Courses are QQI accredited.

Among the attractions for Patrick was that "unlike other courses, you could start at any time of the year as everyone goes at their own pace. I wanted to build myself back up again to get ready for college, no matter what it took to do so, as well as fixing my mental health problems."

Patrick signed up for an office skills and IT course, and, with the help of his tutor, and a counsellor, "after a few months, I began to see what I could achieve."

With access to a counsellor at any time, Patrick says he "decided to take the initiative and talk to her and figure out what I needed to do to help myself to find some peace and become the person I wanted to be."

He also loved the course "as there was no pressure as to when a module had to be finished. I also liked the fact you can get one-on-one help from your tutor; this was such a big help for the difficult tasks."

His confidence building all the time, Patrick subsequently secured employment in the retail industry and he says the NLN course and work experience "were invaluable when it came to me getting this job".

Now, he is ready to go back to college and will return to IT Sligo next month for a course which he believes will suit him better.

Patrick credits NLN with helping him "to achieve goals I never thought I'd reach and I now know I can achieve anything, while also getting out of my comfort zone and being a much happier and positive person.

"I cannot wait to start college again."