Student battles back from self-harm and severe eating disorder to secure first-class degree

A Swansea University student who battled back from a depression, self-harm and a severe eating disorder is celebrating after graduating with a first-class degree in Mental Health Nursing.

Rachel Huggins, from Pembrey in Carmarthenshire, has struggled with mental health from the age of 14 and her eating disorder meant she received nursing care that would eventually save her life.

Having originally studied Applied Psychology at Glamorgan University, graduating with a 2:1 in 2011, Rachel began a Masters in Health Psychology but as her mental health deteriorated, she was unable to complete her studies.

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However, seven years on the 28-year-old is now celebrating first-class honours in Mental Health Nursing and looking forward to what promises to be a bright future.

“I am still in a state of disbelief that I actually achieved a first class degree,” said Rachel. “I started the course questioning if I’d make it through the first term and there were times during the three years that I was prepared to quit because I felt I wasn’t good enough.

“I’ve been fortunate to have received some of the most incredible support from mental health services and that influenced me to become a mental health nurse myself.

“I was fortunate enough to have two nurses involved in my treatment, who went over and above to support me at my worst and didn’t give up on me when I gave up on myself. To see the effect that that had on my recovery inspired me to want to help others.”

Rachel has undertaken many leadership roles during her time as a student, being an ambassador for the University during Open Days, a student course representative and she also won the College prize for Outstanding Mental Health Nursing Student in 2018.

“I received so much support and encouragement during my course, but I’d like to give a special mention to my personal tutor, Sarah Tait, who always supported me both academically and emotionally, and Beryl Mansel, who provided me with the opportunity of presenting at the Royal College of Nursing Education Conference.

“It took me a long time to speak openly about the past, but I no longer feel ashamed. It has changed my perspective on life.”