Student’s treatment for eating disorder inspires her to become a mental health nurse

Rebecca Hackfath says personal experience of mental health issues could benefit the specialty

Rebecca Hackfath says personal experience of mental health issues could benefit the specialty

Rebecca Hackfath

A student is training to become a mental health nurse after being inspired by how healthcare professionals treated her eating disorder.

Rebecca Hackfath, a first-year mental health nursing student at De Montfort University, Leicester, said she began having issues with eating when aged 16.

‘Things got out of control’

‘I saw my older sister going on a diet and wanted to be like her. I started in small ways like cutting back on chocolate,’ Ms Hackfath said.

Once she began her A-levels, the eating disorder worsened: ‘My life was a bit chaotic, I had family issues and my grandmother died. It pushed everything to the surface and things got out of control.

‘At first there were a few foods I would feel okay about eating as long as it was within the calorie limit I set for myself.

‘But the more weight I lost, the more the feeling of food and eating disgusted me. I just thought that if I ate I would automatically gain weight.

‘I know now that, realistically, eating the amount I was eating, I wouldn’t have gained weight at all.’

Escalating issue at university 

After completing her A-levels, Ms Hackfath decided to do a course on fashion management and marketing at university, but unfortunately the eating disorder deepened.

‘I just wanted to feel empty physically and emotionally,’ she said.

The condition disrupted her studies to such an extent that Ms Hackfath realised she shouldn’t have started university at that time. 

Missing lectures 

During her second year of study, she consulted her GP and was referred to specialist services.

‘I did manage to get a bit better but went back to university too quickly. By December 2014, the eating disorder was out of control and I was missing lectures – something I would never normally do.’

Inspirational care

She decided to leave university and return home to Leicester, where her treatment continued for a further five years.

Ms Hackfath said the care she received influenced her new choice of study: ‘The nurses, therapist, consultant and psychiatrist were so good at what they did, they inspired me to become a mental health nurse.’ 

Support from student peers

Ms Hackfath is now living with other nursing students, who she said have been very supportive.

‘I didn’t want to have the same experience at university as the last time,’ she said. ‘It’s such a hard course, you need a support network.’

Giving something back

Ms Hackfath said she wanted to demonstrate how people who have experienced mental health issues could make excellent mental health nurses.

‘I want to show that just because you’ve been through something, it shouldn’t hold you back from a career in nursing,’ she said. 

Seeing through the eyes of a service user

De Montfort University senior lecturer in mental health Jo Sharpe said: ‘Since starting the BSc in Nursing (Mental Health) programme, Rebecca has demonstrated that she is an inspiration to all around her. 

‘She courageously shares her personal experiences in class, and supports other students to consider all aspects of mental health nursing from the service user perspective.’

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