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TV’s Anna Williamson On Mind, Podcasts And Celebs Go Dating

An ambassador for Mind, the career of Hertfordshire’s Anna Williamson took an about turn when she suffered an emotional breakdown – but came back stronger than ever

Early in my journalistic career, I crossed paths with Anna Williamson, then a children’s TV presenter. It was a prerequisite of the job that she had to have an infectious, bubbly personality and I was certainly bowled over by her fun-loving attitude. While my career has followed a standard path, Williamson’s went off in a completely different direction when anxiety issues took over her life.

“When I was diagnosed with GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder), it was actually a huge relief,” she takes up the story. “I had been struggling for many months and then suffered an emotional breakdown in my mid-20s as a result of not recognising what was wrong or asking for help. When I finally did, everything started to gradually get better.”

Fast forward to today and it’s incredible how far the Hertfordshire local has come. She is now a qualified counsellor, life coach and NLP practitioner, a successful author and podcast host, TV presenter extraordinaire and an ambassador for the charity Mind. “It’s such an incredible charity,” she smiles. “In fact they are an absolute game changer when it comes to giving mental health the platform it needs for awareness and destigmatising. I became an ambassador well over ten years ago when mental health had much more of a stigma surrounding it, and I am so proud of the work they have done and continue to do to chip away at this.”

Although Christmas is a time of great joy for many, the work of Mind and the support they offer is valuable during this period. “Very much so,” Williamson agrees. “The festive period is a time of excitement for many, but equally there are many others who struggle with this time of year. It’s important they know that there is help and support out there should they need it.”

Belle Pr
Anna Williamson’s eclectic career includes TV presenter, author and co-creator of a hit podcast

Williamson is certainly doing her part in helping people to understand it’s OK to ask for help. Back in 2017, her book Breaking Mad was published and became an instant best-seller. “I wanted to write the book I wished I could have read when I needed it most,” she says on its origins. “When I was feeling anxious and in the middle of a horrible emotional breakdown, I couldn’t find anything that I could relate to, and when you are emotionally broken you don’t have the mental or physical strength or capacity to read massive chunks of literature. I certainly didn’t expect my book to go straight in as Amazon number one best-seller, knocking Mary Berry’s latest cookbook off the top of the charts!”

It’s not just writing where Williamson has tapped into all that she has learnt during from her work as a life coach and counsellor. When we speak, she is busy filming the latest series of Celebs Go Dating, which has been a huge hit for Channel 4 and does exactly what it says on the tin, with Williamson offering a guiding hand from her presenting role. “It’s everything I have trained for,” she says on the initial attraction – no pun intended – to the show. “I have been on TV for 20 years, and 12 years working in talking therapies, so for the two to come together as they have on this incredible show was a dream come true. This is my third year at the helm of the [celebrity dating] agency, my sixth series so far and it honestly just gets better and better each time.”

Also a match made in heaven is her podcast partnership with another Hertfordshire local, Luisa Zissman, with the duo behind the perfectly titled LuAnna. “It came about by pure chance,” Williamson says. “Luisa is my amazing friend and work wife, and we just felt like giving it a crack and showcasing our chalk and cheese relationship and friendship. We never expected it to be so popular or for it to even work, but somehow it does, and we are very grateful that people tune in every week for our nonsense. We wanted to show that you can be incredible friends with somebody where you also have differing opinions. The world has become so offended, we believe, so wanted to remind people that it’s totally OK to have a disagreement with your pal and to still actually like them!”

It seems as plenty agree, so much so the two are heading out on tour in 2022. “We have 14 dates cross the country, which have sold out,” Williamson says almost disbelievingly. “We are so grateful to our brilliant fans who are all as equally as crazy and disgusting as we are. It’s going to be the usual fun and frolics you get from our podcast, but in a live setting. We can’t wait.”

It’s amazing how much has come from such a dark period for Williamson. “Training in talking therapies has been life changing for me,” she nods. “Not just personally, but professionally. It is hands down one of the most rewarding, humbling and important things I have ever done and continue to do. My lasting legacy will always be campaigning for more mental health equality and understanding and help. From something so rubbish, has come something so wonderfully positive.”

Anna Williamson is a TV presenter, relationship expert and life coach (@annawilliamsonofficial)

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