Darran dressed his finery at the Palace Garden Party

Darran dressed his finery at the Buckingham Palace Garden Party

In 2013, Darran Latham was homeless, alcohol dependant and desperate for help.

Fast forward five years and the 37-year-old, who is studying an award-winning three-year degree course in BSc (Hons) Criminological and Forensic Psychology at the university, has undergone an amazing transformation.

This month, Darran was invited to Buckingham Palace in the presence of Prince Charles and Prince Harry – the newly titled Duke of Sussex’s first official engagement since his wedding to Meghan Markle.

And he has appeared on BBC Radio Four to talk about his work as a volunteer for the charity the Samaritans, helping people who are experiencing the same sort of pain that he once did.

Darran with, centre, Michael Rosen, host of the Radio 4 show Word of Mouth and, right, Mark Harris, from The Samaritans.

Darran with, centre, Michael Rosen, host of the Radio 4 show Word of Mouth and, right, Mark Harris, from The Samaritans.

“I spent many years struggling with alcohol which resulted in being homeless in 2013.”

It was then that Darran, originally from Liverpool, moved to Bury to complete a 12-month treatment plan as part of a therapeutic community for people in addiction.

It was an intense experience and after it, he moved to live in Bury permanently.

After the treatment, Darran had two aims – to work with the Samaritans and to study for a degree at university.

He achieved both.

He said: “When I had been at my lowest I had used the Samaritans and they were a massive help.

“Half of the battle when you find yourself in these positions is just being listened to, properly listened to.

“So, I applied to be a ‘listener’, which was quite a rigorous process. There is intensive training, probably over a six-month period all told.

“You need to be non-judgemental, open-minded and, above all, a good listener.

“I have been with the Samaritans for three and a half years now and I do four hours a week, but my circumstances mean I can be available for more if needed.

“The support that the Samaritans give their listeners and the callers is fantastic.”

Darran studied an access course at Bury College, in effect completing three A levels in nine months.

He had achieved six A-C GSCEs, despite his troubles and at college he was able to study psychology, which is his interest.

After successfully completing that course, it was time for Darran to select a university.

He said: “I knew I wanted to go to university and I was lucky enough to have a choice. I looked at Salford and Manchester Met, as well as the University of Bolton.

“But when I came to Bolton I knew this was the one for me.

“I wanted somewhere I could feel comfortable working – somewhere more personal.

“The University of Bolton felt like that place. It just felt right.

“After my visit I got a personal phone call from the university, which was a really nice thing.

“It is easy to get lost in a sea of faces at university, but there is a real personal touch at Bolton.”

He also singled out the university’s Disability Services Support team for particular praise.

“They have been amazing. Healing completely from the lifestyle takes time and also when I moved here I had nothing.

“They have provided a computer, a printer, a desk and even a chair. It has been an unbelievable help.”

Darran has also been hugely impressed by the quality of the Criminological and Forensic Psychology programme, which recently won the National British Psychology Award for Innovation.

Darran LathamIn 2013, Darran Latham was homeless, alcohol dependant and desperate for help.

“I have a personal tutor once a week to provide tips on the best ways to study and to manage my learning.  and the support at the University of Bolton has been amazing,” he said.

“Being here now is what I have always wanted to do.

“I knew I had the capability and I also had the plan. Being at this university is the end of my plan and it is amazing here.

“I can now think of a new plan for when I graduate.

“The field I am working in is great, it is a fantastic, award-winning course.

“The lecturers are really impressive and really know their stuff.

“My aim is to work with offenders after I graduate.

“It is a huge thing to be where I am now compared to how I was.

“Being at the Palace, dressed up as I was, surrounded by all those people in such opulent surroundings, was incredible.

“I felt like James Bond. I felt like I was in the middle of a movie.”

Dr Gill Allen, Associate Teaching Professor in Psychology at the University of Bolton’s School of Education and Psychology, who leads Darran’s degree programme, said she was hugely proud of what he had achieved.

“He is an exemplary student – he really epitomises what our students are all about.

“Learning about psychology in the classroom means he is able to use that knowledge to hone his skills and develop them for what he does, giving back to the community through his work with the Samaritans.”

As part of his work with the Samaritans, Darran recently appeared on the Radio 4 programme Word of Mouth, hosted by Michael Rosen, to talk about his experiences as a listener and the importance of using the right kind of language with vulnerable people.

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