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Stephen Williamson

Psychological Therapist

I am currently working as a Psychological Therapist. I completed my nurse training in 1991 and I’ve mainly worked in Northumberland in the mental health trust since then. For the last five or six years I’ve worked with the early intervention and psychosis team, so I help people who’ve had their first experience of psychosis. They tend to be younger people, but we can see anyone right up to sixty-five who’ve had psychotic symptoms. I was able to retire on March 21st, but I continued to work because of what was happening.

Usually we get a referral from a GP, hospital or family member and see them within 2 weeks as we’re early intervention. It has been hard to keep people safe and also offer a quality service. However I think we have done well to meet people’s needs during this difficult time

I think a lot of people coped very well for the first couple of weeks, I think clients accepted it and managed. But as time’s gone on, it has been difficult for clients, professionals and the general public, we have all felt stressed being separated from love ones. I do think people are more aware of mental health issues now, which is a good thing.

I’m so proud of the NHS in general and the trust I work in. I do feel very proud of what we’ve achieved. We shared a lot of material, and promoted a lot of good coping strategies. And on the whole we did a good job of keeping people well during a difficult time. I have a lovely team that I work with, and that for me has been wonderful because we’ve supported each other. I think the main thing with my job is it’s about caring, and a lot of it you can’t teach – it’s about having a personality where you want to help other people. It’s the most rewarding job – helping people get better and seeing them moving on with their life. I absolutely love it.

I think my experience in lockdown has made me appreciate life a lot more. We’ve seen first-hand the impact this can have – both myself and my partner were poorly with Covid. During this year I have had a heart attack and a stent fitted and have been diagnosed with diabetes. Laura has had long Covid and been in hospital four times. She did manage to return to work after six months. However in some respects we have been the lucky ones, someone that I did my training got Covid and died. A lovely lad. One of a number of people we have lost, it’s so sad.

My peaceful sanctuary is my garden where we have spent a lot of time in the garden to relax. Having the garden helped us get better too – it’s a Florida scene because my brother lived there. I’ve got a 20ft by 10ft shed which has got a pool table in it. We also like getting out for walks in the lovely countryside we’ve got around here. Laura takes a really good picture, so she takes photos when we can get out and I paint them when we get back.