This afternoon on Mental Health Awareness Week, I have a fantastic interview with one of my Twitter followers, Danielle Nichol. I reached out on Twitter for anyone who works or has experience in the mental health industry and Danielle said she was going to be starting university soon to study to be a mental health nurse. I was super intregied and wanted to find out more, so I have an amazing and super honest interview today with her today.
Tell us a bit about your own experience with mental health. In as much or as little detail as you feel comfortable.
Hi Jenny. I’m 19 years old, soon to be 20 in October. I was born up north in Newcastle but i moved to Leicester when I was 3 years old. I am an only child at home but I have an older half sister who still lives in Newcastle! I had a happy and healthy childhood until around 15 years old.
I was bullied by people I called my ‘friends’ for my weight and looks. I tried to laugh it off but with each comment, it was digging at me. Then when I met person A (I don’t want to include names), I finally felt loved. This relationship latest nearly 2 years and it was the worst 2 years of my life and the years which also triggered my mental health decline. At first everything was fine and I was happy, but then things began to change. He wouldn’t let me know where he lived, he stopped me seeing friends, and stopped me wearing certain clothes. He also made me feel guilty about spending time with family rather than him. I became very isolated and depressed. About a year into the relationship I started to self harm, he made me feel like I needed to punish myself about everything I did. After months of physical and psychological abuse, I finally plucked up the courage to end the relationship! For days after, I had to stay locked in doors as he would turn up to my house with letters and begging me to forgive him. Still to this day I am scared of going to certain places incase I bump into him. I was too scared to go to the police about any of the abuse, and if I went forward now, I wouldn’t have enough evidence as I don’t even know where he lives!
Once the relationship ended, I began to be myself again and I started socializing with friends and I even started a new college. After around 6 months of being single, with no intention I ended up in a relationship with my best friend! However this has also recently ended after being together for 2 years. During this 2 year period I was at my worst, I was paranoid, too scared to leave the house, anxiety stopped me going college, and I began to harm again. I was referred to the hospital where I was put on a waiting list for intense therapy. Still to this day 11 months later, I am on the waiting list. If it wasn’t for my family and boyfriend I would have ended my life last year.
However, with no professional help, I started to kick butt and my recovery was improving every day. My second year of college I got 95% attendance, with the previous year being below 50%! My harming was becoming less often and I was coming out of the shadows again. This was my second time trying to escape the darkness. The past 6 months however I began to relapse again. I was angry, argumentative and quite a horrid person. This causes myself to constantly argue with my boyfriend and family. This is what lead to the breakup, but after this, I realized it was for the best as I am a lot happier and less stressed now! I still have good and bad days and I’m currently 17 days harm free!
I understand you’re going to be starting a Mental Health Nursing course this year. What made you want to do this? Was there a defining moment for you when you knew this was what you needed to do or is it something you’ve been planning for a long time?
I wanted to have a career where I was able to be a direct help to people. Then once I suffered from mental health issues myself, I knew that was the sector I wanted to work in. I’ve been told that from my personal experiences, I will be able to relate to patients and this will benefit myself and those in my care.
Can you give more details on the course? How long is it? What specific topics you will be studying? Etc.
My course is at Derby University and its 3 years long. It is 60% placement and 40% uni time, and the placements include places such as in hospitals on wards, in the community working with alcoholics and drug addicts, and also there’s a chance to work in a prison. The core themes for my course are;
Evidence based practice and research
Leadership and management
Professional, legal and ethical studies
Sociological aspects of health care
Integrated practice, incorporating essential skills clusters
What are you hoping to gain from doing a course like this and eventually working your way into the Mental Health Industry?
From this course I am hoping to gain more of an understanding of each mental health condition no matter how big or small, and the best ways to help those suffering. Currently I am hoping to get a career with adolescents with mental health, but this may change throughout the course.
Do you think the stigma will ever disappear? Or is it now just about learning to manage it and giving people the information but leaving it up to them how they deal with it and react to it?
I don’t know whether the stigma will overall disappear, but I definitely think its becoming more accepted and talked about. In my opinion it’s the older generations which have less understanding, which I think is because 1 in 5 young people will suffer from depression at least once in their life. More ‘celebrities’ are bringing awareness to mental health which is great for spreading awareness!
Tell us a bit about yourself, your other hobbies etc.?
My other hobbies include reading, spending time with my family, and being a Netflix addict! However I will be having less time to do these things whilst at uni, so let’s add parting in there as well!
Lastly, any advice to those suffering with Mental Health problems?
My advice to those suffering from a mental health problem is to talk to people. It’s definitely easier said than done as I HATE talking about my problems, it can be so belittling! But even if it’s to a friend about why your day has been bad, will take that extra bit of weight off your shoulders! There are now also forums and apps for people to anonymously talk about their problems which I found great for a while! I am also here if you just want a rant about why your parents are annoying you or why you wish you could quit your job! Also keep yourself busy with things you love. Mine is picking up a new book so I have a whole shelf of unread books, as another love of mine is book shopping in charity shops!
I want to thank Jenny for this opportunity and just want to say you are not alone! Even if you feel it, you’re 100% not!