I am sure many other students are familiar with the question, “Why have you chosen mental health nursing?”, which arises time and time again.
The best thing about this type of question is that each student has their own reasons or stories on why they feel specifically connected to this wonderful field of nursing, and I strongly believe that we should always reflect on and remember why we wanted to become a nurse initially.
I was recently having a fantastic discussion with an individual during my placement, and this lady told me how much she would love to become a mental health nurse but does not have the confidence or the required entry requirements to support her ambition. This hit me hard emotionally.
“Feelings of self-doubt are a common emotion encountered by those experiencing a mental illness”
These feelings of uncertainty ultimately become a significant barrier which deprives talented, ambitious and compassionate people from achieving this rewarding student nurse status. Feelings of self-doubt are a common emotion encountered by those experiencing a mental illness, and I feel exceptionally blessed and privileged to be on this journey.
I remember developing my aspiration to help others in my late teenage years. My mental health declined intensely after experiencing repetitive trauma, and I was told by teachers at school that I never was going to succeed in life.
The discouragement and insufficient support resulted in me leaving school early with minimal GCSEs, but I persevered as much as I could and went to college to study dance although my mental health was deteriorating.
I was referred and offered support, but I felt misunderstood by the nurse who visited me, and I did not feel that she distributed the support I so desperately wanted and needed. I was unwell, young, and it is a possibility that I did not understand, but I felt severely disappointed at the time.
From this, I discovered I found a strange but exciting sense of inspiration from the disappointment I felt, and I knew then that one day when I am well enough that I want to be a mental health practitioner.
I have been a dance teacher up until now which has given me opportunities to build confidence in others, but I also felt ready to think about pursuing my mental health nurse vocation. I began volunteering at a local mental health group, and my passion for mental health grew increasingly. I applied for the mental health nursing course, and I luckily got a conditional offer, but I needed to retake my GCSEs.
This time last year I was waiting for my results which was a daunting process because I wanted my place so badly, but I did pass, and I remember feeling the best I have ever felt – I felt accepted for the first time in my life.
I have enjoyed every moment of my course so far and I am excited to begin year two of the programme in September. My placements have enabled me to learn a lot about myself as well as others.
University is the most supportive environment I have ever been a part of. I discovered that my history of trauma was no longer a deficit, but an important part of my personal transformation.
I wanted to share a part of my journey and story with the hope of helping others achieve their ambitions too. I have discovered that the most rewarding thing you can gift yourself is giving something back to those who need it the most.
Francesca Hufton is a student at Canterbury Christ Church University