“Mental health nurses stand alongside people for their highest highs and lowest lows. Days are filled with laughter and tears, rewards and setbacks, trauma and triumph.”
I was born in Plymouth, named after a boat, baptised in the dockyard, and went to school in the former Royal Naval Hospital. I moved away from Plymouth as a child, living in Cornwall, Dorset and Somerset with my parents, before branching off to spend my young adulthood in Norwich, London, and Brisbane (Australia).
Why Mental Health Nursing?
My own experience of mental health issues gave me an insight into the struggles of others. Part of recovery for me is using my experiences to help others, and so mental health nursing was an obvious choice and perfect fit, especially with the guarantee of a job after graduation!
It’s not an easy subject to study, but a worthwhile one. The programme is loaded with 2300 hours of theory and 2300 hours of practice, sometimes meaning that I work a 12-hour shift on an inpatient unit, and then come home to continue working on an essay. We have filmed assessments, group presentations, service user feedback, and reflective diaries to complete for the theory side. But it’s in practice that I find myself working hardest.
Mental health nurses stand alongside people for their highest highs and lowest lows. Days are filled with laughter and tears, rewards and setbacks, trauma and triumph. It’s incredibly rewarding and fulfilling, although it can be really challenging to switch off like it was just another day in the office. I’m always left thinking about that person who smiled for the first time in years, or the one who’s finally well enough to return to work.
How to Stay Calm and De-Stress
Feeling so connected to the ocean, I like to spend a lot of time by the sea, whether it’s by Mountbatten Pier, the Hoe Foreshore, Wembury Beach, or Sutton Harbour. I smell the salty air and hear the lapping of the waves and know that I am home, that I am safe. I love seeking out the perfect tides for fishing, the best weather for sailing, the secret havens for paddle boarding, or the most beautiful coastal walks. Sometimes I just sit on the Barbican eating fish and chips, or watching the boats from my bedroom window with a cup of tea. De-stressing sometimes means letting it all out through exercise, but sometimes means curling up and relaxing. Whatever mood I’m in, Plymouth has it on offer, and never far from the ocean!
We nurses are bound by confidentiality, but the sea keeps all secrets. It calms me when I am stressed, soothes me when I’m upset, dances for me when I am happy, and never judges if I get a second ice cream. My Ocean City keeps me afloat when I sometimes feel like drowning, so I know that living here means I can handle just about anything.
There is something about the ocean that unites people. I remember feeling staggered by how far I was from home when I first landed Down Under, but standing on the pristine sands, I remembered that this was the same sea water that I had dipped my toes in as a toddler at Bantham Beach (albeit with quite some difference in temperature!). Like a message in a bottle, those memories floated back to me and I knew, as long as I was by the ocean, I was home.
I would never have guessed that when I moved back, I would recover so well that I would study mental health nursing at the University of Plymouth and share my life lessons with others.