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Pharmacist shares experience of mental health support during Long COVID recovery

South Wales pharmacist, Geraint Jones, contracted COVID-19 in April 2020. He has kindly shared an insight to his experiences over the last year after he was later diagnosed with Long COVID.

Geraint was living with a multitude of symptoms after his initial COVID infection in April, which became extremely impactful on his day-to-day life, both as a professional and as a person.

Geraint explained: “I was in quite a novel situation at this time as I was diagnosed with Long COVID by a London clinician with experience in treating patients after initial COVID infection.

“There was no guidance on how to support or manage patients presenting with a huge variety of symptoms at this time, so I felt very uncertain on how the illness may impact my life, but also how long it will continue to affect my life.”

Finding support

Health for Health Professionals (HHP Wales) was recommended to Geraint through a friend at Swansea Bay University Health Board.

“After knowing the struggles I’d faced with COVID, and subsequently, Long COVID. I sought support through HHP Wales predominantly out of desperation and not knowing who to turn to for help.”

After initially contacting the service to see what support was available, Geraint was assigned a therapist who would lead him through sessions of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

“My experience with HHP Wales has only been positive. Having used CBT in the past, I loosely understood what I was to expect, but also my therapist gave me very useful tips to get the most out of the sessions and then implement this into my day-to-day life.

“The strategies we spoke through were very simple and never used too much mental ability (which I appreciated as some days I was completely lacking in this).

“I naturally felt comfortable when discussing any personal issues with the therapist, which is a skill in itself but also making me feel at ease throughout at a time and date to suit my varying physical symptoms.

“The sessions were always based around what I, or my therapist, felt I would benefit from having understood my needs through conversation and assessment.”

Would you recommend HHP Wales to others?

“Definitely! I’d never heard of HHP Wales before October (2020), and to be honest, I had quite low expectations due to not knowing much about them or the service that they provide. I don’t think I could have got it more wrong!” 

Geraint contacted HHP Wales via e-mail. With the launch of our new website, the quickest way to refer yourself for support is through our referral form.

Geraint continued: “I received an answer in less than a few hours with a telephone appointment for the next day, essentially a triage appointment to understand why I felt like I needed support.

“I spoke with Nicola, a Dr Advisor, who recommended a course of CBT and sent me the details of my assigned therapist to make initial contact. 

“Within a week, I was introducing myself to my therapist and starting the sessions – I’ve not known a service with such a quick turnaround time and handover between colleagues. 

“I cannot thank the HHP Wales team enough for guiding me through some very difficult times when nobody else understood my worries and concerns.”

Helping to investigate Long COVID

Geraint recently gave evidence as part of an All Party Parliamentary Group about Long COVID.

He had been a part of a small focus group with a senior research associate of the Cambridge Institute who was interested in speaking with men living with Long COVID.

Dr. Nisreen Alwan M.B.E. was part of the focus groups where the attendees would talk about their lived experiences and the lack of support out there for everyone affected.

Geraint said: “A few weeks later, Dr. Alwan got in touch and asked if I’d like to be a part of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) debate led by Layla Moran, Lib Dem MP for Oxford West & Abingdon.”

The aim of the debate was to help gather evidence to submit to MPs about the incidence of Long COVID and how it continues to affect those who have survived the acute infection.

Geraint giving evidence as part of the Long COVID debate

“This was live-streamed via March For Change’s social media accounts, with MPs attending virtually, but also some decided to attend personally at the House of Commons,” Geraint explained.

He continued: “I honestly believe that the support I received from HHP, and gaining an understanding of how to live with a long-term health condition, gave me the confidence to speak at such a debate.

“I used my learned coping mechanisms to help guide me through the preparation and conversation, highlighting the importance of managing strategies when living with an illness.” 

Is there anything you’d like to highlight to anyone considering getting in touch with HHP Wales?

“Prior to contracting COVID, I was fit, well, and would like to think that I was quite resilient; unfortunately, COVID completely changed my physical and mental health.

“The support I received from HHP Wales invaluable at an uncertain time when no other support was available.

“This has been a complete eye-opener to what support is available for healthcare professionals and I would definitely (and already have!) recommended HHP Wales to colleagues.” 

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