A Fishguard woman has spoken out about her struggles with mental health and an eating disorder and how, with the right support, she managed to achieve her dreams.

Francesca Murphy, 25, from Pembrokeshire, developed mental health problems in her late teens following a sailing accident.

Throughout this time Francesca did her best to carry on and continued to work at Fishguard Leisure Centre as a receptionist, instructor and lifeguard.

Strong support from her co-workers and her wider network helped her recovery. She also credits suicide charity PAPYRUS, which provides support to those under 35, for helping her survive times of crisis through their text and phone services.

Francesca ran the Edinburgh Marathon in 2017, alongside families who had lost young people to suicide, to raise funds for and awareness of the charity.

As Francesca’s recovery progressed, she began work at a primary school.

"I loved my time at the primary school and also working at the leisure centre, but I knew it wasn't what I wanted to do long term – I wanted to go to university,” she said.

“After everything I'd been through, I knew it would be hard but thought, 'I'm going to try.'”

Francesca went to look at Swansea University where she says ‘something clicked’ and she enrolled in 2018.


Before enrolling she was in a good place and would check in with the university’s wellbeing team to maintain that.

But in February 2020, she received some sad news and then, once lockdowns were introduced across the UK, ‘everything spiralled’.

"When the pandemic hit halfway through my second year, I started feeling unwell quite quickly,” she said.

“Soon, I found myself finishing the end of the academic year in and out of hospitals.”

Francesca completed her degree and submitted her dissertation while in Cotswold House, an eating disorder unit in England.

“The unit was quite some distance away and due to the pandemic, I felt very isolated from my family, friends and university, which was very difficult,” she said.

However, Francesca was determined to finish what she had started and thanked her lecturers and support staff at Swansea for helping her.

"There's no way I would be graduating this week if I had gone to a different university,” she said.

"I realise I'm lucky to be alive, and I know part of this is down to the fantastic individuals I've met during my studies who genuinely care.

“When I had received the bad news back in February 2020, I didn’t know what to do and so I just walked to the Sport and Exercise Sciences department, where one of the lecturers, Dr Andrew Bloodworth, kindly connected me with the right people – they made a real difference to me."

Francesca said that that the university’s wellbeing service stayed in contact with her while she was receiving treatment and her lecturers went ‘above and beyond’ to make sure she had everything that she needed.

"I'm also fortunate to have extremely supportive family and friends who have seen first-hand what I've gone through, and I can't thank them enough,” she said.

Despite these challenges, Francesca still managed to make the most of university life, joining the music society and the sailing club, where she was the beginners team captain, as well as working as a student ambassador.

She has also been recognised with an award from the students’ union for individual contribution and also from her faculty for her contribution to the Sport and Exercise Science environment.

Francesca has since returned to Swansea to study for a masters degree, something she would never have imagined possible years ago.

"I'm not very academic, but after my lecturers made me aware of the research, I decided it was the right next step.

"I was back in Cotswold House at the end of last year, but like last time, I was lucky enough to have the support of people like my supervisor Dr Jo Hudson - she has been my rock through the whole experience."

Francesca encouraged others in a similar situation to reach out for any help that is offered.

“There is always support available,” she said. "It can often be difficult, but don't ever feel embarrassed to accept help.

“If I hadn't had support from my family and friends, the university, my therapist and Hywel Dda Tier 3 Eating Disorder Services, I don't think I would be where I am now.”