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How our Wellbeing Programme is helping us to stay connected

by | Mar 17, 2023

  • Blog by the Storm Skills Training Team

Two of our wonderful team members, Dani and Emma, lead our Wellbeing Programme for the internal Storm Skills Training team.

They’re passionate and committed to improving the health and wellbeing of our team and are invested in promoting a happy and supportive environment.

Since getting the go ahead from our CEO Bianca and our Board, they have introduced and grown a programme which has gone from strength to strength. We are so proud and thankful to them for developing this idea.

In this blog Dani and Emma tell us how it all began, what they’ve learned, and what their plans are for the future.

In October 2022 we introduced a Wellbeing programme into our team. At Storm Skills Training we believe in people working together to build understanding, hope and safety at times of distress.

By investing in the wellbeing of our people, spending time together, nurturing a healthy environment, we create a culture of happiness and support. It’s important to us that our staff feel valued which in turn leads to higher quality customer care throughout our training and beyond.

How did the idea of a wellbeing programme come about?

Workplace wellbeing has been a growing focus for everyone over the past few years. For us it’s always been something we’re passionate about. Being a growing remote team, we need to create opportunities for connection and movement.

During the first lockdown (back when we were a small team of four!) we started doing a morning yoga session together as a group. This was something positive and active to help us get motivated and connect with each other through a challenging time.

As things returned to normal and the team grew it faded out. But it’s been something that was talked about often and remembered fondly. And so reintroducing yoga to the larger group was the spark that set our wellbeing journey alight! We knew that there were other activities the team would love, and we could already see the huge benefit to wellbeing and team morale, this was when it all started to grow…

What support have you received?

We have had amazing support from the entire team!

Once the idea of introducing yoga back into the team was suggested, it all happened very quickly. We had some exciting conversations with our CEO Bianca who empowered us to come up with a plan to present to the board. They gave us some amazing feedback, asked some thought provoking questions to help us make the programme a success, and have continued to offer support and advice throughout.

Bianca has been a wellbeing cheerleader from day one. She attends so many of the activities and events, and actively encourages and supports the rest of the team to do the same.

And the team…. our wonderful team are always ready to try something new – they fully engage and participate in activities, they are positive, offer suggestions, and give amazing feedback to help us make this a success.

“It’s good for connection with others but also a moment to connect with my body, which I often forget about when I’m absorbed in work.”

Storm Skills Training Team Member

What have you achieved so far?

We decided to start with getting the basics right. We have so many exciting ideas, but we knew that we needed to learn to walk before we try to run with this.

Yoga was the inspiration and so it was obviously top of the list, we’ve been running regular sessions every couple of weeks and have tested out a few different instructors to find something that works for all of us.

Other activities have included meditation sessions and breathing techniques, social events, quizzes, lunches and even some crafty things like origami and a fun challenge or two. Now that we have a great foundation, we are moving forwards and starting to focus more on the health and wellness aspects. We have some exciting things to roll out this year!

We have managed to stick to the schedule which is amazing, and we have had great attendance at all the activities and events. It’s not been without challenges though, some of the meditation content has been hit and miss and we have faced some technical issues due to being a fully remote team. But it didn’t dampen our spirits and we’ve found alternatives and have already begun to improve..

“We have this programme where we do yoga and social stuff together online. It’s great. It’s helps us to feel connected even though we work remotely.”

Storm Skills Training Team Member

What have you learned?

The most important thing we have learned is how much this was needed and how well it works! We have only just started, but we can already see the positive impact it is having on our team. It does take a lot of work, but it’s so valuable and it really is worth putting the effort in.

We always want to be inclusive but there is a balance between what people want and what is actually achievable. Not everyone will like every event and that’s ok. Communication is key and we do everything we can to make sure that everyone feels comfortable to attend wellbeing activities but also importantly that no one feels pressured to do so either.

What are your main goals in 2023?

Now that we have the foundations in place, we are looking forward to introducing a more rounded programme that covers the pillars of wellbeing including:

  • financial

  • physical

  • occupational

  • and emotional

What would you say to anyone who was considering rolling out a similar programme?

Absolutely do it! Your team will thank you for it, even a small change can have a big impact on people’s happiness and emotional wellbeing.

Finding out what your team want will give you a great foundation and you can build from there. We cannot say enough how much this has benefited our team, it really is worth the effort.

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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© 2023 Storm Skills Training CIC | Company number: 07726889

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