November is the start of a new chapter for me at Response, CEO blogging. Each month, I will be using this platform to give organisational updates, progress stories and to highlight important awareness days and opportunities. But before my first official monthly blog comes out, I thought it would be best to properly introduce myself and explain my background and how I came to Response.
As a teenager in Northern Ireland, I worked on building sites every holiday and weekend until I was 16 and got a job stacking shelves in the supermarket, Wellworths. My mum was very keen on me getting a proper government job with a good pension, so at 17, I started my training in psychiatric nursing. I knew nothing about the prevalence of mental health illnesses. At the time, very few people openly spoke about their mental health. During my training, working with different people and hearing their stories developed my passion for mental health.
After 3 years split between college in Derry and practical placements, I decided to chase the bright lights and moved to London. I worked at different hospitals across various wards with acute inpatients, intensive care patients and elderly inpatients. I was brought in to work one-on-one with patients and support their care.
One of the most memorable experiences I had was working on a ward where I first saw the fine line between physical and mental illness and what we would now recognise as complicated trauma and PTSD. At the time, mental healthcare wasn’t a place filled with hope or focused on recovery and giving people agency to live their lives to the fullest. Although there is still a way to go, I am pleased to see the progress made. When I first started working in psychiatric nursing, most young people wouldn’t have felt comfortable admitting to needing mental health support. Now we have a complete service dedicated to Children and Young People at Response.
After my first son was born, we moved to Oxfordshire, where I got a job with Oxford Health. I started at Kate Turnbull House as a manager for a few years. At the time, it was a high-needs community facility for people with severe and enduring mental illnesses. From there, I joined the housing team and became the housing and homelessness team manager before taking on the role of a clinical manager looking after rehabilitation services. Then I applied for the CEO Role at Response, and I’ve been here ever since.
Since I started at Response, I have noticed some significant changes. Our staff have always been outstanding and dedicated to their jobs, but we’ve had a culture shift in the past few years. We are moving from not only caring for the users of our services to empowering them to become independent and move on from Response. I’m proud of our focus on recovery, and you can see this throughout our services. Whereas we used to be known for providing group homes, we now offer independent living, and our Children and Young People’s services are giving young people the tools to protect their mental health in the long term. Seeing the growth of our Adult Services and our commitment to providing support for children and young people, I can see we have come a long way since I started in my nurse training.
When I’m not working, I enjoy going for walks with my dogs and watching whatever sport is on television to look after my mental well-being. I try and switch off from the computer as much as possible. The top item on my bucket list is seeing the golfing Masters in person at Augusta, Georgia, but don’t let my wife know that!