Meet Our Senior Peer Support Worker: Katy

Posted by Admin on 8 August, 2023

Peer Support Workers within Devon Partnership NHS Trust are people with lived experience of mental health difficulties, who can provide hope to others that recovery is possible. At TALKWORKS, we have our own Peer Support Worker, Katy, who supports our patients before treatment and in their recovery. 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 working in 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 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. 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.


My role as a Senior Peer Support Worker

The majority of my work is around working with people who are coming to the end of their Therapy with TALKWORKS but who would appreciate a few weeks of support to go through their Wellbeing Plan, looking for community groups, resources and activities that will help the person stay buoyant on their next chapter. Alongside this, I support the Central team at TALKWORKS in the production of our patient letters, our new online referral form and promotional leaflets by offering a supportive eye as someone who has previously accessed the service as a patient.

Within my role, I also contact patients who are new to TALKWORKS and feeling anxious at the idea of receiving treatment or support for their wellbeing. I hope to help keep them ‘a-float’ and therefore more likely to attend and engage with our brilliant service.  Because I have that lived experience and am not a therapist, we can talk on the same level and I can help dispel any misconceptions or anxieties about mental health services and what will be expected of them.  I also gently encourage them to think positively about making that change.


Why I want to help others

I have always had a lot of empathy and 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. Peer Support has been used for centuries for a good reason: it supports, informs and inspires change in others.


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).

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