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Life as a STORM Facilitator – An interview with Catherine Phillips

by | Jun 18, 2020

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a STORM Facilitator?

We caught up with Catherine Phillips, STORM® Facilitator and Practice Development Lead for Mental Health in Guernsey to find out more about her Facilitator journey.

Catherine along with her colleague Nicky Thomas have trained close to 300 professionals – wow!

What is your background in suicide prevention/self-harm?

“I have worked as a registered mental health nurse in Guernsey since 2002, predominantly in acute in-patient.

Prior to this I worked in acute in-patient and community dual diagnosis for South London and Maudsley NHS Trust (SLAM).

Currently I work clinically with psychological therapies as I have recently trained as an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapist.

I have extensive experience working in secondary mental health services which has included supporting people with lived experience of self-harm and/or suicidal ideation or behaviours. As a frontline clinician this has also included those people who may have been bereaved by suicide.

In my role as Practice Development Lead for Mental Health in Guernsey, it is imperative that I am aware of The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines and policy documents including research indicating the evidence for efficacy of interventions and/or approaches when working with people who have complex presentations, this includes self-harm and/or suicide.”

Why did you choose STORM®?

“Back in 2017, in my role as Practice Development Lead (in conjunction with the Service Manager at the time) we identified a training need that was consistent with NICE recommendations.

Guernsey had previously received training but we felt that moving forwards as a service, we needed to ensure that interventions were:

  • clinically relevant
  • applicable
  • academically robust in line with professional standards.

STORM® met the relevant NICE guidance and quality standards and this was considered along with other training packages.
At the time, STORM® were delivering version 3 which is what we decided to opt for (we are now version 4). The training was highlighted as being:

  • written at the right level
  • readily understood by target audiences
  • reflected the values and attitudes that people with lived experience had identified as important in the relevant literature.”
How many professionals have you trained in STORM®?

“STORM® version 3 training was initially facilitated by a cohort of 6 trainers from 2017 and throughout 2018, to the entire staff cohort working within adult mental health services – irrespective of grading, core profession or previous experience.

This has included a broad spectrum of professionals ranging from:

  • occupational therapists
  • social workers
  • nurses (general, learning disability, mental health, children’s)
  • clinical psychologists
  • therapists
  • student nurses
  • pathology assistants
  • medical doctors

all of whom work for Health and Social Care (HSC) Guernsey.
During 2018 and 2019 we unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, saw our number of facilitators reduce to 2 – Nicky Thomas and myself.
It was during 2018 that we spent time with STORM CEO, Gill Green, to upgrade to STORM® version 4.
This upgrade meant that we were able to offer STORM® throughout Health and Social Care (HSC) Guernsey to all staff whether they were based in the Emergency Department, surgical ward, ICU and hostel to develop an increased knowledge, shared understanding and a more integrated approach to the care that we deliver as a service.

We usually run a STORM® training session at Basic level, level 1, 2 or 3 at least monthly or on demand if service areas request this.

Overall we have most likely trained close to 300 professionals within the service.

We have sessions booked throughout 2020 and moving forwards will continue to deliver the training throughout HSC.”

You recently highlighted your work in delivering STORM® in a research poster event. We heard you won – well done! Can you tell us a little more about this?

“The Bailiwick of Guernsey as a dependency of the UK has been endorsed by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to deliver on-island pre-reg and post-reg training locally.

This is facilitated by our Institute of Health and Social Care (IHSCS) Studies who run training with their partner the University of Middlesex.

In essence HSC has our own academic institution and as such the IHSCS endeavours to support research and organise local on island conference and seminars.

Most recently the IHSCS organised a whole day ‘evidence based practice seminar’ and part of this was a call for submission of research to present during the day – this included poster abstracts.

Myself and a colleague Halina Gleeson (CBT Therapist) undertook a mental health service survey in relation to the efficacy and value of STORM® training. The results were collated into a poster and presented at the seminar.

There were about 15 entries from across the organisation however voting was cast and the STORM® poster WON!

The delegates who attended the seminar during the day were very interested in STORM® and very supportive of mental health services continuing to strive for integrated care pathways, shared understanding and inclusivity for those people with lived experience of self-harm and suicide.”

What is the best bit of suicide prevention advice that you could give?

“For me the key piece of advice that I could give to anyone is that any professional who has a working relationship with people with lived experience of self-harm and/or suicide should be collaborative. This means that decisions should be shared so that people are enabled to make choices, and feel empowered in relation to making decisions about their care.”

What is the best thing about being a STORM® Facilitator?

“In becoming a STORM® facilitator I feel that I have made a difference to the wider service, that I have built relationships and networks in areas that I may not have had the opportunity to do so before. In doing this training I have demonstrated that anything can be achieved if you are compassionate and approach people with humanity.”


Linda's Story:

Meet Linda Gask: Co-founder

I studied medicine in Edinburgh, before moving to Manchester where I trained in psychiatry. I had both professional and personal interest in mental health, having experienced depression and anxiety myself. I was acutely aware of the need for effective communication to better understand and work with my patients.

Storm Skills Training started as a research project Manchester University funded by the Department of Health in the 1990s. Myself and Richard Morriss developed a training package that demonstrated how using viewing recorded roleplays could actually change people’s behaviour. We first tested our approach in Preston, then across a wider area in South Lancashire.

At that point, we named it Storm Skills Training and we were joined by Gill Green to roll out the delivery of training. Gill further developed Storm as a CIC and it’s wonderful to see how it has grown to where it is today under Bianca and her team.

My passion for many years has been on making mental health support more accessible in primary care. Until the Spring of 2023, I was Presidential lead for primary care at the Royal College of Psychiatrists and I continue to offer advice on the issue.

I moved to Orkney full time in 2020 at the start of the pandemic. I am Chair of a local mental health organisation called the Bilde Trust. As a rural community, we face our own challenges with mental health – it’s great to be involved in making a difference where I live.

Orkney is a wonderful place, unlike anywhere else in Scotland or the UK. I particularly enjoy writing here. After my first book, The Other Side of Silence, was published, I wrote my second (Finding True North) about how moving here positively impacted my own mental health.

My third book will be published at the end of 2024, exploring mental health and feminism. Maybe then I will take it easy, but that’s very hard for me to do!

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A not-for-profit social enterprise delivering high-quality skills training in self-harm and suicide prevention.

Keith's Story

Meet Keith Waters: Non-executive Director

Keith has over 25 years of clinical experience in Liaison psychiatry, self-harm and suicide prevention and was awarded an Honorary Research Fellowship by Derbyshire Healthcare Foundation Trust (DHCFT) in 2013.

For many years he was the lead for the Derby site of the Multicentre Study of self-harm in England, a study which he still maintains a very active role in. Until recently he was the Clinical director for self-harm and suicide prevention for the Trust and retains a post within the research team.

Keith is also a Storm Skills Training consultant with many years experience in facilitating, delivering, and supporting Storm Skills Training and has for a number of years held a seat on the National Suicide Prevention Alliance steering group.

He has been the Suicide Prevention manager for the East Midlands and Clinical Advisor for Suicide Prevention with the East Midlands Academic Health Science Network, developed a business and clinical case for Liaison Psychiatry Services in Derbyshire, and was the clinical advisor for its implementation.

Keith is an experienced trainer, facilitator, and presenter in Self Harm and Suicide prevention and management, locally and nationally in addition to the work with DHCFT and Storm Skills Training, has helped develop and delivered an initially lottery-funded suicide awareness training program across the East Midlands and organised chaired and delivered at numerous nation conferences and events. Keith has also been a joint author on numerous published research works, and chapters in clinical textbooks on self-harm and suicide prevention and has contributed to policy and practice guidance developments locally and nationally.

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Alf's Story

Meet Alf Hill: Non-executive Director

I first encountered Storm Skills Training CIC during my time as a volunteer Business Mentor at Unltd – a charity that supports social enterprises. Co-founder Gill Green was one my mentees in 2010 when Storm Skills Training was still within the University of Manchester and at the beginning of its journey to becoming an independent Community Interest Company.

At our first meeting I asked Gill, “How do you think I can help you?” Gill’s response was “Well… you could explain accounting to me.” We worked together for 18 months to develop Storm Skills Training as a social business. When Storm Skills Training CIC was finally incorporated in 2011, I was invited by Gill and Linda to be a non-executive Director and became Chair of the Board ten years later in 2021.

I’ve had a diverse career; initially as a civil servant, then in senior management and executive and non-executive roles in insurance and reinsurance in the UK and USA, in the corporate sector, and in Lloyd’s of London.

I returned to the public sector initially in adult education then at the Equal Opportunities Commission, later the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

A qualified accountant, I’ve been trustee of several charities, local and national, currently the Yapp Charitable Trust and the Centre for Investigative Journalism.

At Storm Skills Training, post-pandemic I feel that we are stronger than ever. I’m excited about the future with our new team with an ambitious plan.

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Gill's Story

Meet Gill Green: Co-founder

My career has taken me from nursing to academic research and finally to the development of Storm Skills Training CIC as a skills training company.

When I was nursing, so many of my patients often expressed that they felt so hopeless that they thought about ending their life. And like so many of my colleagues, I felt ill-equipped to know the right way to respond. It was a dilemma that I wanted to address through skills training – to give fellow healthcare professionals the confidence and practice they needed to have those difficult conversations.

In 1997, it was a chance job advertisement in a national paper for a Trainer and Researcher that introduced me to Storm Skills Training. At the time, I saw the 12-month project, working with Linda Gask at the University of Manchester, as an opportunity to learn new skills to take back to clinical practice. After the project, I stepped away for a few years, remaining in research but working with prisons on a different project. Research was definitely where I wanted to be.

I came back to the University of Manchester in 2003, when Linda and I started to develop the training package we now know as Storm Skills Training. It was important to us to translate the theory into usable, effective practice. I knew that as a healthcare practitioner, it wouldn’t be enough to sit in a room and be ‘taught’ suicide prevention. It is only through practice that we can actually ‘do’ suicide prevention.

I’m looking forward to supporting Bianca in realising her vision for where we go to next – and to exploring even more new directions for my own career. 

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Bianca's Story

Meet Bianca Romanyk: CEO

After 20 years in the mental health field, I am incredibly proud to be CEO of Storm Skills Training.

In my early career as a probationary psychologist working in community mental health, I can remember thinking that I’d like to one day have a role that could influence and impact the lives of many who were in distress. I recall meeting the CEO of the mental health service and being inspired by her and the compassion and empathy she showed those experiencing mental health issues.

Being in a small town in rural Australia I had the privilege of my role spanning across several areas of mental health, including working in an ongoing way with people with severe mental illness and crisis assessment (and being on call). I enjoyed all of it - I loved working with people, building trusting relationships, and working alongside them. I developed a special interest in working with younger adults with complex trauma and was lucky enough to train and be part of the Dialectical Behavioural Team for a short while. All of these experiences in my early career have driven my passion to make a difference for those in distress. I believe it is the quality of the connection that we make with people that makes a difference.

My career took me away from the frontline but rooted deeply in mental health and creating positive change. I found myself sat in a Storm Skills Training session as a trainee facilitator in 2013, Gill was delivering the course. I’d started in a brand-new role, working with schools in Australia to support their communities impacted by suicide. I recall vividly the anxiety of being on film in front of my new colleagues and the relief, value, and benefit the experience gave me. I left the training session feeling so empowered – I knew this course would help teachers and others working in schools to have conversations that made a difference to young people in significant distress. I wanted everyone to have Storm Skills Training!

Life presented itself with an opportunity to move to the UK. In 2014, before I left, Gill returned to Australia, we agreed to meet and talk about the opportunity to work together when I arrived. I arrived in the UK, with my two dogs, on the 7th of August 2015 and started work with Storm Skills Training on World Suicide Prevention Day the next month.

I haven’t looked back, my life here in the UK is lovely! When I’m not working, you’ll find me on my local common with my dogs, Derek and Doris, enjoying the view and nature. Or in my garden having a chat to the plants. I enjoy all things creative. More recently I have become a foster carer and am looking forward to this new life challenge and making a difference to the lives of young people.

I love the Storm Skills Training team, our consultants, and community and am always thinking about how to build and improve on the work we do, to have a positive impact on the world. I know that between us all we can make a real difference to people in distress. That’s what I am most excited about.

I believe passionately that Storm Skills Training helps to save lives. My vision for the future of Storm Skills Training, and our community, is to strive toward a more collaborative, empowering, and person-centred approach to self-harm and suicide prevention. A world where distress is met with compassion, everyone feels empowered to help and the support offered is tailored to the unique needs of people and their stories.





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Find support:

If you need help and support please reach out for it, here are some options:

Samaritans (UK)

Email: jo@samaritans.org

Phone: 116 123 (24 hours a day, 365 days a year)

Visit: samaritans.org

International Association for Suicide Prevention (International)

Visit: findahelpline.com/i/iasp