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Mental health hero helps her patients ‘find joy’

Crystal Willson finds joy in helping her patients’ mental health.

Willson, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, has worked for King’s Daughters Medical Center since 1996.

Initially, she was an accounting major while attending Copiah-Lincoln Community College. But she didn’t feel like it fit her and changed her major to nursing.

“I certainly realized it was not the direction for me,” Willson said.

She graduated from Co-Lin’s associate degree in nursing program and was part of the original graduating class. After graduation, Willson worked in multiple areas around the hospital.

Willson decided to return to school, and she received her master’s degree in psychiatry from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 2018.

She felt called to work in psychiatry after seeing patients with underlying mental issues in the ICU.

“They were always interesting to me,” Willson said.

She also knew that a degree in psychiatry would benefit her community, as there weren’t many options for residents at the time.

“It’s a much needed area,” Willson said. “Not many people go into psychiatry.”

Willson worked with Dr. John Richardson, who was preparing to move back to Brookhaven, and they were able to work with KDMC to open a psychiatric clinic.

“We were able to connect and talk about opening a clinic,” Willson said.

Willson considers her job’s greatest joy to be the progress her patients make throughout the treatment process.

“When I have a patient and I see them at their very worst and they can’t imagine ever being happy again,” Willson said. “A few months down the road and they’re happy, and their life has changed significantly. They have a whole new outlook on life and they never knew that was possible.”

As for her job’s greatest struggles, Willson says it’s the stigma of getting help and not being able to find it.

“Mental illness is not something people talked about 20 years ago,” Willson said. “A lot of my patients grew up with issues and not knowing them. They thought that was just how they were.”

Willson also discussed in depth how resources are limited in the area.

“A lack of resources for patients, lack of available therapists,” Willson said. “I do medication management. I refer patients for behavioral therapy and medication can only do so much. We don’t have a lot of available therapists, especially that take Medicare. We don’t have the available resources for adult ADHD testing, I have only one place locally that I can send patients.”

Working during the COVID-19 pandemic has had its ups and downs for Willson.

“Fortunately, we were able to do Telehealth,” Willson said. “It really didn’t change that much.”

Willson was able to meet virtually with her patients, who have expressed their enjoyment for the service.

The most important thing to Willson about her job is making sure her patients feel taken care of.

“It’s letting my patients know that I truly care about what’s going on with them and that I’m gonna do everything I can to help them,” Willson said. “I don’t consider them just a number or something on my schedule. I really care about each and every one of the patients I see. I want them to find joy in life.”

 

Story by Gracie Byrne