VIDEO: Doncaster woman tells how she came back from the brink of suicide

A Doncaster woman is sharing on YouTube the story of her remarkable journey from feeling “suicidal with no hope” to becoming a qualified carer looking after some of the area’s most vulnerable people.

Friday, 2nd July 2021, 9:30 am

Debbie Oliver, aged 30, hopes her short video will inspire others with long term mental health problems to follow in her footsteps by using the skills of a local NHS trust’s employment specialists.

Debbie, a mum of two, one of whom is disabled, received support from Rotherham Doncaster and South Humber NHS Foundation Trust’s (RDaSH) fledgeling Individual Placement and Support (IPS) Service, which provides intensive individual help for Trust patients who have mental health problems, helping them achieve paid jobs and in-work support.

“Debbie said: “Before the IPS stepped in I was denying my mental health issues and at absolute rock-bottom. I didn’t want to get out of bed every morning.

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Debbie and Jaq
Debbie and Jaq

“I had been out of work for ten years and thought I could never get a job on my own, that nobody would want me.”

But a referral by Debbie’s Community Psychiatric Nurse Leanda Sowerby to IPS Employment Specialist Jaq Kocabas, was the springboard she needed to turn her life around.

Jaq said: “Research has proved that having a job can support an individual’s mental health recovery and Debbie is a perfect example of this and a great success story”.

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Jaq explored Debbie’s strengths and barriers, gave benefits advice, helped her write a CV and supported her as she applied for jobs and even helped with interview preparation - building up her confidence on the way.

Debbie said: “Jaq and Leanda’s help was amazing, from raising my self-esteem before my job interview to giving me lots of helpful advice. Most importantly, they believed in me and I was delighted to be appointed a carer with TLC Homecare. I couldn’t have done it without their help”.

“I love my job as a carer and hope to progress further with it in the future. I help elderly people in their homes, including providing personal care, cooking, and cleaning. A lot of our clients don’t have family, so we are the first people they see in the morning and the last they see at night. It’s very rewarding.

“I have learned to manage my mental health issues. They will always be there but having a job has taken me from feeling no hope to giving me a purpose to get up and out every day to help others.

“My message to those who have struggled like me with their mental health is if I can do it, so can you. Just ask your Community Psychiatric Nurse to put you in touch with IPS.”

A spokesperson for TLC Homecare, which has been a care provider in the Doncaster and Rotherham areas for over 20 years, said “Debbie has become a valued member of staff and all our service users have good things to say about her. We encourage others in Debbie’s position to do the same as her”.

IPS was set up on the back of research revealing that 75-90 per cent of people with mental health issues would like to work, but only 37 per cent are in paid employment. The in-jobs figure for those with severe mental health illness is just eight per cent, with feedback from studies pointing to a lack of the right level of support in the past.

Although the RDaSH’s four-strong Doncaster and Rotherham IPS team launched only last year, Jaq and colleagues Kirstie Townend, Leonie Gleadall and Antony Sharp have already helped over 60 people with long-term mental health problems into work.

“Evidence suggests that, with IPS help, someone with enduring mental health issues is now more than twice as likely to gain employment and, crucially, retain it. It is now part of RDaSH’s on-going services, funded by Doncaster and Rotherham’s NHS clinical commissioning groups, added Jaq.

“IPS specialists are based in the same teams as mental health clinicians, working collaboratively and flexibly to support patients. We focus on their strengths and preferences and understand the barriers and fears people face going into work”.

Dr David Crichton, Chair of NHS Doncaster Clinical Commissioning Group and a local GP, said: “This is a wonderful success story and a great example of how such services can help to turn lives around. We are very proud to be associated with the IPS team whose work is proving invaluable supporting vulnerable people in our communities.”

Debbie’s story, filmed by the RDaSH Communications Team, can be viewed at https://youtu.be/pJxbBvjmhVo

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Liam Hoden, editor.