Mental health nursing student insight: Gemma Isaac-Henwood

What inspired you to choose to study mental health nursing?

Mental health has always been a subject close to me personally and I am happy that it is finally getting the recognition it needs. Over the years I have had friends and even family suffer with mental health difficulties ranging from eating disorders, OCD to depression and anxiety so I had a good insight, even before I started the course.

Mental health issues do not discriminate and this is important to remember, it could literally happen to anyone at any time. 

One in four suffer from mental health problems so this course hasn’t just taught me to be a competent practitioner but it has also enabled me to be better equipped to support people in my personal life – friends, family or peers/colleagues…even myself!

Gemma's placements so far

  • H Community mental health services
  • H Complex care and dementia
  • H Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
  • H A recovery ward
  • H Liaison and diversion, working alongside the Police in custodies and in magistrates court
  • 2 Psychiatric intensive care unit – yet to be completed

What are your future ambitions?

From the start of my nursing journey (when I was studying an access course), and after I had my son, working with children and adolescents has always been what I have been drawn too. Initially for my university application it was a very close choice between studying paediatric or mental health nursing.

I eventually decided on mental health as I wouldn’t be limited to working with a certain age group, and it really was the right choice for me! From that moment, I have been drawn to work within a CAMHS setting.

Luckily for me whilst on the degree I was allocated a CAMHS placement on my second year which without a doubt was my favourite placement and one I excelled in. 

I have already been successful in gaining a preceptorship within CAMHS even though I have four months of study left! I have been deliberating about the possibility of studying a masters at some point. Also, the possibility of research in the future, within the CAMHS setting if it was applicable.


How do you unwind while studying?

I have a few hobbies beyond my study: running, art, rock climbing and wild swimming – local beaches and Dartmoor are perfect locations – we are blessed with many amazing surroundings!

All help me to improve my wellbeing, relax and cope with the stressors of being a parent and studying a degree – I am passionate about each of them. My son enjoys doing the rock climbing and art too!


What advice would you give to future students?


Make time for self-care – this is so important
Aside from dedicated study time, make time to see your friends and family and also for hobbies or activities that you love and bring you joy. Even if its walking your dog, spending ‘protected’ time with your children, having a bath or getting up for a run at 6am.


Aspire to become more organised
Organisational skills and effective time management skills have been a blessing and have really helped me to succeed! 


Hang in there! It’s not a walk in the park
Choosing to study mental health nursing is easily the hardest but equally the best thing I have ever done and I would gladly do it all over again in a heartbeat!