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Two weeks in, two weeks behind

It is August 2021, and I woke up tired, but it was an important day. I was very apprehensive and quite anxious as I logged into my PC to check the outcome of my three years studying, for a BSc Public Health and Health Promotion. Yes, I was very anxious because you see, I am a single mother to two lovely boys, and studying has never been easy for me. Put simply; I have moved from career to career for years until I decided to give university education a try. I remember introducing myself on the first day of a Heath promotion module. The lecturer, Dr Josephine NwaAmaka Bardi listened as I listed all the careers changes that I had before that day, and she said, “those who do not start will never feel the joy of how it feels to finish.”

Okay, so back to being anxious about the outcome. Well I did it, a First Class Honours in Public Health and Health Promotion me, single mum? Wow I was ecstatic, elated and crying and thought about ‘’My Why’s!’. You are probably thinking what does she mean by ‘My Why’s’. I Smiled as I thought back to another time when I listened to Josephine talk about why ‘we must have our whys, these are our reasons for taking positive actions. I thought back to that first day and truly felt what it feels like to finish. I thought about getting a job, but there was something else that had occupied my mind since I joined the campaign to Raise Awareness of Mental Health in Higher Education (RAMHHE© ) campaign, Which has allowed me to plan, implement and evaluate student-led Mental health campaigns. And oh, before I forget, I eventually became the volunteer manager, where I organise and facilitate student-led campaigns. That’s not all. I am also a member of the RAMHHE inter-country research group, being part of RAMHHE has enabled me to embed the true meaning of having collective discussions about mental health, but more importantly, it gave me the confidence to explore, disclose and manage my feelings of what we at RAMHHE, refer to as situational mental health experience. You know, feeling a bit low because of a situation.

The question is, what else led to me mental health nursing?

Mental Health is very personal to me. This is the main reason I decided to build my career around understanding public health and health promotion first, and then, move on to the specialist area of mental health. I was raised in a household with a mother who suffered from mental health challenges. Mental health was a complex topic for me to discuss, especially as a child who grew up in a culture where mental health was not part of the conversation, so there is a general tendency to believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with a person because they do not look ill. My mother suffered from this, and because she suffered, I suffered, and my siblings suffered. In no way did she look unwell, but she was mentally unfit.

Therefore, from a tender age of 10, I decided I wanted to work in healthcare so that I could contribute to helping others who suffered like myself and my sibling, as a result of mum suffering. Although I did not start my academic career in mental health, I started my journey as a dental nurse, and then, moved to a First Class Honours in Public health and health promotion.

I often thought, it would be easy to obtain the admission to study for the BSc in Mental Health Nursing Degree, but I was wrong. The application process was daunting to say the least. I applied to five universities. Only the University of Essex invited me to an interview. and I am thankful for that because I had begun to question myself and doubt if I would ever be able to start my studies this September. I remain grateful to the University of Essex because for me an admission to study mental health nursing, is a dream come true.

The question remains, how can universities make the application process more encouraging?

I had the interview at the University of Essex, and wow, it went so well. The interviewers words were positive, and encouraging, best of all, I received an unconditional offer. As a single mother, I knew that it would be challenging because of placements and the distance to travel. But then, I remembered that I completed a bachelor’s degree, however, being a reflective and self-motivated individual, I believe that obstacles will always be there, so it is how I navigate that matters.

So, what did I do to tackle this new challenge?

Hmnnnn I smile as I write this because I wanted to write that I devised a plan. The truth is that I devised a lot of plans. So, when I eventually wrote down my draft plan… it has to remain a draft plan for a while because this experience is entirely new to me. So, I researched all the available materials, such as how to survive nursing school, and all the mental health theories, made notes and started by first completing an NVQ II course on mental health awareness, purchased the book about the fundamental of mental health nursing and thought, yes. I am ready.

It is now week two of lectures and seminars and honestly, I feel that I am two weeks behind and all the preparations I did were not sufficient. The workload is arduous, and I realised that I need 10 hours a day to keep up with demand. Having said that, I still doubt myself only yesterday, I checked to see if I was in the right class as I listened to the lecture on anatomy and physiology. I left the webinar and re-joined because I was convinced, I was in the wrong class. I was not ready, and I felt deflated. I made my call to Jo, and she always has the right response ‘’you’re not expected to know everything, so stop putting so much pressure on yourself.” Two weeks in and two weeks behind will not be forever. I am passionate about mental health nursing, so I will not get bored or discouraged.

Final thoughts for single mother planning to study mental health nursing….

We can all do it and although I feel like I am two weeks behind, I have loved the experience so far, and as I continue to enjoy the process while focusing on the finishing line of graduation day. Make sure you plan in some reading and self-directed learning whenever you can. Endeavour to seek help from your lecturers, personal tutor and academic adviser, and never underestimate the important of the subject librarian.

I will probably always be two weeks in and two weeks behind for the next three years, but I will continue to restructure my time and timetable as my kids needs and my learning needs demand it.

Soneika Atkinson, BSc Public Health /Health Promotikm, AFHEA, 1st year Student Mental Health Nurse, at the University of Essex, she can be contacted via LinkedIn

Note: 'Student Blog' articles highlight the student perspective on issues relating to ProtectED. Consequently, this article reflects the views of the author and not ProtectED.



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