Trigger warning: This article mentions eating disorders.
When Sally stepped into her first class of the Bachelor of Paramedicine at UniSQ, she knew it was going to be the start of a new life she once never imagined possible.
After battling anorexia nervosa for over a decade, Sally found her whole life overshadowed by the debilitating effects of mental illness.
“After multiple hospital admissions, I hit somewhat of a rock bottom and found myself thinking, I can either spend the rest of my life in and out of hospital, or I can do more with my life,” says Sally.
It was at this point Sally became determined to change her life.
“From a young age, I always knew I wanted to make a difference and to help others. I had previously considered several occupations in the healthcare sector, but at the age of 15, the idea of being a Paramedic was first ignited after providing first aid at a road traffic accident outside my school.”
Unable to complete Year 12 or previous vocational studies due to being unwell, Sally decided to take steps towards gradually building her confidence.
“I enrolled into a tertiary enabling program that helped me realise I was in fact capable of completing study, and that I could do well and achieve good grades.”
"I then took a leap of faith and ended up putting a QTAC application in to study at UniSQ,” says Sally.
After a year of studying psychology and human physiology, Sally made the decision to transfer into UniSQ’s Bachelor of Paramedicine.
“I thought Paramedicine might be a better fit and from day one, I fell in love with it. I just remember thinking this is where I am meant to be. This is what I am meant to be doing.”
As a mature age student, Sally never felt out of place and praises the teaching team who she learnt from during her time as a UniSQ student.
“I was incredibly fortunate to learn from such a phenomenal teaching team at UniSQ. Not only were the lecturers highly engaging in the way they taught, but they also took an interest in actually getting to know us as individuals - including all our little quirks,” says Sally.
“I never felt like I was just a number. They were always willing to make time for me, irrespective of whether that was to review content, request feedback or to simply have a chat. They helped me to see and reflect on things that were holding me back and to overcome my barriers.”
“The Paramedicine team at UniSQ is second to none and I will always be incredibly grateful to the lecturers who were a part of my entire journey as a student.”
Sally’s dedication for helping others, her determination to overcome her own life barriers, and her enabling spirit has led her to where she is now – a graduate paramedic with the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS).
“I am currently halfway through my graduate program and after that, I will be fully qualified as an advanced care paramedic with QAS.”
Sally has grown both personally and professionally throughout her study journey at UniSQ. Where she once doubted her own capabilities she is now fulfilling her dream daily as a Paramedic.
“My life experiences have made me who I am today. I am now able to bring my lived experience of recovery and the challenges faced along the way to patients we see on the road, and who are reaching out for help and support due to their own mental health concerns.”
Using her life experiences to teach others and in her treatment for patients, Sally has also been delivering speaker days to second and third year Paramedic students, giving them a tailored understanding of what it’s like living with mental illness.
“The speakers we get in are either individuals with a lived experience of mental illness or parents or carers who have a lived experience of caring for someone with mental illness.
“It gives an insight into what is and isn’t helpful when interacting with healthcare professionals.”
Sally is a strong advocate for not holding back and doing all you can to push past individual barriers that will allow you to give study a go.
“Coming to UniSQ was the moment where I went from one stage of my life to finally being truly happy because I am doing something that I am incredibly passionate about. My experiences at UniSQ made all the difference in the world to who I am today and provided the foundation for being a stronger and more resilient human being,” says Sally.
“Even if you do not pass a subject one semester, it is never a sign of failure or that you are not capable or good enough. Use it as an opportunity to learn, to grow, to try again. It’s about the journey, not the destination. There are always resources from both the lecturers and the university as a whole to support you each step along the way.”
If you or someone you know needs help The Butterfly Foundation is a dedicated national organisation for eating disorders. Call the national helpline on 1800 33 4673 or 1800 ED HOPE.