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Mental Health Service Transforms Catherine’s Life

A 29-year-old Chester woman with long-standing mental health problems was in a “dark place” when she was made redundant last year after being furloughed.

Software tester Catherine Franklin, from Saltney, was struggling with worsening self-harm, attending A&E regularly and having periods of inpatient care.

But her life was turned around when Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CWP) referred her to its Individual Placement and Support (IPS) service alongside intensive treatment for her mental health issues. IPS is provided under contract to NHS Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group, helping people with severe mental health difficulties into employment.

Catherine was referred to IPS by care coordinator Yvonne Walters who paired her with employment specialist Laurie Knight from Standguide Ltd.

Laurie helped Catherine find work as a test analyst with Wrexham-based Cimteq, which develops software for cable manufacturers. She will have been in post for a year next month, during which time she has not self-harmed or needed hospital services.

Laurie explained his role: “I took time to understand Catherine’s skills and aspirations before finding her suitable opportunities. When she was invited for interview, I advised her on polishing her CV, honing her interview technique and creating a PowerPoint presentation. Following her appointment, I’ve kept in touch with Catherine to offer ongoing support and help her navigate the everyday challenges of office life.”

Catherine said: “I was in a dark place and completely lost when I was made redundant in August last year. But I now have a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging – something to get out of bed for in the morning.

“I’m now independent financially and feel I’m contributing to society. There’s such value in work.

“I’m very busy and the role appeals to my logical mindset. It’s challenging and there’s never a quiet day. I have a brilliant manager, a supportive team and lots of autonomy.”

Lesley Cleworth, the CCG’s programme lead for mental health, said: “Our mental health commissioning team has been working with the IPS service for a number of years now and is committed to supporting people who have experienced severe mental health difficulties into meaningful training, education and/or employment.  Evidence suggests this is pivotal to their ongoing recovery.  It is therefore very heartening to hear a first-hand account of the difference this service makes.”

Catherine now has ambitions to develop coding skills in her own time: something that would allow her to carry out sought-after automated testing.

She has been receiving mental health support since the age of 14, initially in Hertfordshire where she grew up and then in London where she attended university. She has been supported by CWP since moving to Cheshire in 2018. Her problems were worsened by the loss of friends to suicide, and she hopes that continuation of the IPS service will make a difference in the lives of others struggling with similar issues.

Catherine is now drawing on her talents as a graduate in English and creative writing to pen a novel which is a fictionalised version of her journey through the mental health system. And she’s converting an old caravan into the writing space she needs to finish her book. She lives with Keira, her partner of five years.

For more information on IPS, email team leader Louise Jordan: louise.jordan11@nhs.net