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NSPA Conference: Reflections and learnings from the Storm Skills Training team

by | Mar 16, 2023

  • Blog by Bianca Romanyk, Keith Waters and Becky Jagodzinski

This year the NSPA conference brought the suicide prevention community face to face for the first time in three years. 

The conference is always an important date in the Storm Skills Training calendar, and three of our wonderful team were among those who came together to learn share and connect; Bianca Romanyk (CEO), Keith Waters (Director) and Becky Jagodzinski (Research and Evaluation Coordinator). We asked them to tell us their thoughts on this year’s conference….

The conference brought us back together in person!

Since moving to the UK seven years ago, Bianca has attended the NSPA conference every year. She told us how lovely it was to be back amongst all the people:

“It was great to meet Rosie Ellis the new NSPA Lived Experience Officer, and I’m very happy to know that our success at Storm Skills Training has helped the role come to fruition.

Also meeting Jess Worner (NSPA Lived Experience Network Manager) and Shilla Patel (who is a member of the NSPA’s Lived Experience Network and our Product Review Steering Group) in person were highlights for me personally.

It was a wonderful and inspiring day – well done to the NSPA team!””

Bianca Romanyk
CEO, Storm Skills Training

 

For Keith, there were mixed emotions. He told us how much of a pleasure it was to meet up with friends and colleagues he worked with before as a member of the NSPA steering group and planning previous conferences. And although a little sad to no longer be an active part of the conference, he was so pleased to see the further growth and progress that both the NSPA and the conference itself have made over the past few years.

“This conference for me was the first conference since the pandemic so initially this was tinged with a little bit of anxiety in getting out again travelling to London and sharing the space with so many people. The pleasure in meeting people and some very fond “friends” was lovely, as was the long lost experience of shaking hands and the occasional hug.
Inevitably due to the subject matter, it was sad to meet new people who have more recently become involved with suicide prevention work due to their personal losses, however, the power of their stories, the drive and passion that they evoke and their optimism for helping in the future was very inspirational.”

Keith Waters
Director, Storm Skills Training

Learning from the community to further enrich our training package for our customers

With the launch of our new Version 5 training package inching ever closer, we were very eager to hear any developments and ideas that were relevant to our training. It was reassuring to see just how well the adjustments to our training package are in line with the information that was shared at the conference – and it made us realise that this update really is coming at the right time!

“From a Storm perspective my antenna were twitching and my ears flapping in relation to thoughts ideas and developments that are pertinent to our Version 5 update work. What was very pleasing and reassuring was my perception of how well the adjustments that we’re making in Version 5 match the understanding and body of knowledge that was shared at the conference. There were no major shocks or worries about anything we have included or missed, and this gave me reassurance and the feeling that we are on the right track but also that the update is needed.”

Keith Waters
Director, Storm Skills Training

 

Professor Louis Appleby’s plenary touched on the use of risk assessment tools and scales. The recently published NICE guidelines strongly advise against the use of these tools to predict self-harm or suicide, but Professor Appleby noted that unvalidated tools are still in wide use in clinical practice. This is something we address in detail in Version 5 and it’s really good to know that the content of our training supports best practice so well.

Becky told us she was pleased to see the parallels between her own work and the topics raised by Professor Appleby;

 

“One of the things he noted was the concerning rise in suicide rates among children and young people aged 15-19 (particularly young girls), and highlighted the role of alcohol/drugs, academic pressure, and suicide-related internet use. This aligns closely with the research I’ve been doing while developing Version 5 of our training.”

Becky Jagodzinski
Research and Evaluation Coordinator, Storm Skills Training

 

NSPA Lived Experience Influencer Sue Wilgoss talked about suicide prevention in the autistic community – this was informative and deeply moving. The relationship between neurodivergence (especially autism and ADHD) and suicide and self-harm, particularly in relation to the effect of late or misdiagnosis on mental health is something that Becky has a keen interest in and is researching with an aim for us to provide our training participants with up-to-date evidence based information to best support minority groups at risk of self-harm and suicide including autistic people.

Suicide-related internet use and online safety were also explored in more detail in a talk by Samaritans. It was interesting to note that many young people are not asked about their online behaviours by professionals, and that many would like more help and support in this area. Importantly, Samaritans advocated for an open-minded, personalised approach to asking about online safety – which aligns perfectly with Storm Skills Training’s guidance about person-centred care.

Presentations and resources

The conference had some very engaging workshops that focused on reaching people in diverse communities and contexts, including people from Traveller or LGBTQ+ communities, people who experience domestic abuse, and in different contexts across primary care and the criminal justice system.

The presentations are now available to download from the NSPA website – there are some really fantastic resources so we encourage you to have a browse!

Thank you NSPA!

Thanks again to the wonderful NSPA team for organising such an informative, inspiring and engaging conference. Well done to everyone involved in making it such a success – we’ll look forward to seeing you at the next one!


View NSPA Conference presentations

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