The Experts by Experience Network within Devon Partnership NHS Trust is made up of people with lived experience of mental health difficulties who can use their knowledge and experience to help better our services. At TALKWORKS, we have our own Expert by Experience, Katy. In her role, she provides a patient voice, and works collaboratively with both our staff and service users to contribute towards service development projects. Read more about Katy’s journey below, including what made her reach out to us for support and why she has now taken on a role at TALKWORKS.
My TALKWORKS journey: Why I reached out to TALKWORKS
My friend suggested I contacted TALKWORKS when she could see I was struggling to function. I was overwhelmed by constant pain, post-traumatic stress and a loss of my quality of life after a crash which left me with a crumbling back and nerve pain. I had also moved from the north to Exeter in order to escape grieving for my mum’s sudden death: I just needed to be by the seaside!
I went on to have operations and had to end my teaching career. Unfortunately, the operations did not work. I no longer saw the point in living if I could no longer enjoy walking up mountains, going to gigs, doing photography or even just sit in a sunny Devon pub garden without pain. My weight had piled on and I couldn’t even fit into my lovely vintage clothes anymore. It was easier to hide away.
How I found my experience accessing TALKWORKS
After the initial phone call, I had an assessment with TALKWORKS and did not have to wait long at all to start seeing a clinician. I also attended group sessions about self-esteem and confidence-building during this time.
My clinician saved my life and I cannot over-emphasise this! She was multi-skilled and held my positivity for me, whilst she helped to empower me. Years later, I contacted TALKWORKS again. I was totally overwhelmed with life, struggling at work, running my own vintage shop and living with constant pain. Although I was referred to secondary services; the care and response by TALKWORKS was outstanding and I got the help I needed in a timely way.
Why I now work for TALKWORKS
I originally applied for the role of Senior Peer Support Worker at TALKWORKS because I have a lot of empathy for others and am grateful for how much the service helped me. I understand the anxiety people can feel before attending their first appointments, and I know how easy it is to dis-engage when you are feeling low. I now work as an Expert by Experience for the service. Since starting my role, I have received encouraging feedback from service users I have been in touch with, telling me that it is so helpful to chat to someone who has ‘been there’. I hope that hearing my story has given them hope that with the right support, things can get better.
Why I want to help others
I am always trying to understand myself and others who struggle with our stressful world. I know that I would not be alive if it hadn’t been for TALKWORKS and I feel I would like to give something back; to help others to get the same result as I did, in re-writing my narrative and having hope for the future. I also feel passionate about people with lived experience helping services to develop and progress with more informed practices. In my role, I sit on interview panels for prospective new members of staff, I attend service development meetings and I support clinicians with any input they might need to support their patients.
If you are feeling stressed, struggling to sleep or experiencing ongoing low mood, support is available through TALKWORKS. We are an NHS Talking Therapies service, here to help adults across Devon (outside Plymouth, which is covered by Plymouth Talking Therapies) access treatment and support, free of charge. You do not need to see your GP before you access our service, you can contact us by completing an online self-referral form on our website, or by calling the team on 0300 555 3344 (our phone lines are open Monday to Friday from 9am-4:45pm).
Posted by Nicky Haycock on 15 November, 2023