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Tim Smith and Lynn Harrison

Tim Smith and Lynn Harrison – Emotional Wellbeing Practitioners

Tim Smith and Lynn Harrison are putting their lifelong passion for mental health and many years of nursing experience into helping young people as part of an innovative new service in Suffolk.

They are two of five members of staff from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) who have joined a multi-agency team, along with Suffolk County Council, called the Suffolk Children and Young People’s Emotional Wellbeing Hub, based in Ipswich.  

Tim, who came out of early retirement after a long career in mental health nursing (and a short stint as a landscape gardener and ground worker), has worked in specialist mental health services and was recently a Primary Mental Health Worker with Wellbeing Suffolk, before joining the Hub as an Emotional Wellbeing Practitioner.

Lynn, who has a background working in inpatient and community mental health services, joined the Trust this year as an Emotional Wellbeing Practitioner in the Hub. Her mental health career has seen her working with the military in Germany, with men and women in high secure services, and with people struggling in the workplace.

In Germany, her clients included people dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder as well as issues such as anger, anxiety and depression affecting servicemen and women and their families.

Her work with men and women in secure services allowed her the opportunity to work within admission, high-dependency and rehabilitation settings.

But it was her experience of helping people coping with day-to-day mental health issues, especially stress and anxiety, in the workplace that tapped into her passion to tackle the stigma around mental health.

“People might still be getting themselves to work and functioning to a degree but are really struggling,” she said. “Because of the stigma and lack of understanding surrounding mental health, too often people suffer in silence, and the issues escalate, leading to feeling overwhelmed emotionally and physically ill.

“It shouldn’t come to this. I’m passionate about getting rid of this stigma and increasing awareness and understanding so people feel more able and confident to talk about their problems and get the right help when they need it, before it becomes a crisis.

“Nursing is about empowering people to be the best version of themselves.”

Tim and Lynn work on the Hub consultation phone line, supporting children, young people, parents, carers and professionals who contact the Hub for support and advice. They also draw on their specialist nursing knowledge and experience to contribute to multidisciplinary case discussions within the Hub, helping the team to make decisions about how to best support a child, young person or family.

Lynn said: “Awareness of mental health issues has improved in recent years, and I hope that, through the Hub, we can make sure young people today grow up knowing mental health problems are not something to be ashamed of and help is within reach. We all have mental health just as we have physical health, but we need both to be healthy.

“We all have a social responsibility to look after each other and to ensure people feel safe to ask for help and confident they will be heard.”

Tim trained in Norwich, qualified and worked as a Staff Nurse with elderly people, and later became involved in developing the Trust’s facilities to make sure hospital environments best suited service users’ needs before retiring.

“I’ve loved it. It would be wrong to say it’s easy; nursing is always challenging, but it’s also extremely rewarding,” he said. “I’ve seen people come into our acute services at their most vulnerable and frightened, receive quality interventions, recover and leave much stronger and more resilient than before.

“Nursing really makes a difference to people’s lives.”

Asked how he feels about returning to nursing after spending a number of years as an operational manager before he retired, he said: “I’ve never been happier. I feel proud to be part of a service which is making it much easier for young people to access support.”

The hub, whose aim is to improve access to services, support and advice for people aged up to 25 in the county, launched to professionals last month (April). It provides a central point of contact through which they can make a referral or receive advice about local wellbeing and mental health services in east or west Suffolk. 

It is set to roll out its services to families and young people as part of Mental Health Awareness Week, starting on Monday, 14 May, when its consultation line will open to anyone concerned about a young person’s emotional wellbeing.