Leeds is getting a Recovery College. But what’s that got to do with mental health and wellbeing? The man in charge of developing it, Simon Burton, explains in this blog, originally posted with Leeds and York Partnership Foundation Trust.
Hello, my name is Simon and I’ve recently joined LYPFT to develop a recovery college in Leeds.
I’ve worked in community recovery services for over 10 years, initially seeing is at an important step on my own recovery journey but later appreciating the important prospective that lived experience of a mental health condition can bring to delivering and managing mental health services.
So, what is a ‘Recovery College’?
Recovery Colleges deliver comprehensive, peer-led education and training courses which focus on living well, both mentally and physically. They are run like any other college, providing education as a route to recovery and not as a form of therapy. Courses are co-devised and co-delivered by people with lived experience of mental illness and by mental health professionals.
Their services can be offered to service users, professionals and families alike, with people choosing the courses they would like to attend from a prospectus. As well as offering education alongside treatment for people they also change the relationship between services and those who use them; they identify new peer workers to join the workforce; and they can replace some existing services.
The first recovery college opened its doors in 2010 and since then they have steadily grown in number and popularity. We now have over 85 across in the UK and even more worldwide.
Find out more in this article from Mental Health Today entitled Recovery Colleges – bridging the gap in mental health service provision.
What recovery means to me
Recovering from a period of mental ill health isn’t linear and doesn’t have a predetermined start, middle or end. What aids one person’s recovery may not be that helpful to the next person.
Recovery is individual and is shaped by many different things including our experiences, values and the people we come into contact with (both personally and professionally).
But to some extent, well at least for me, recovery is about recovering personal confidence, self-regard and esteem that can be lost as a result of a period of stress or burnout, prolonged anxiety, illness or diagnosis. It’s about recovering a sense of self, purpose and control in life despite these challenges.
That’s what I like about recovery colleges, at the core, they enable people. They enable people to learn about what is important to them and their own self-care. They enable people to reflect on their skills and talents and they enable people to develop the knowledge and support they need for their health, life and work.
The aim of a recovery college is to widen the focus of recovery, support treatment or symptom reduction but also in developing a more meaningful and enriched overview of wellbeing, personal resilience and life management. Through education and learning a recovery college encourages people to explore different perspectives and work together to find their own solutions.
Courses that are offered focus on being mentally healthy, staying well and developing the knowledge and strength to overcome the challenges we can all face at times in our lives. To that extent, courses are open to all adults with personal experience and we welcome carers, supporters and professionals too.
Seeing mental wellbeing as important to us all and that we can all contribute to this is reflected in how we develop our courses. We encourage people who face mental health challenges, mental health professionals, third sector organisations and volunteers to get involved in co-designing and co-delivering what we offer, sharing what works for them.
Courses aren’t therapy, they are based in education and the recovery college does not replace a clinical or therapeutic intervention. What’s important is that we provide a positive learning approach in which we all share knowledge and are able to reflect on our own health and understanding.
First course – Wellness Recovery Action Planning
I’ve set up the Recovery College’s first course to run in February. The Wellness Recovery Action Plan, or WRAP, is used world-wide by people who are dealing with all kinds of wellbeing and mental health challenges. I’m running an introductory session on 11 February 2019 with the full course starting on 25 February. Sign up today if you’re interested.
I need your help
I’ve been lucky enough to work at two other recovery colleges; The Exchange in Barnsley and Recovery College Kirklees. Check out their websites if you want to know more about what a well-established recovery college looks like.
Over the next few months I will be sharing more information about recovery colleges and our developments in Leeds. If you’d like more information or if you’re interested in developing a course, please get in touch with me on:
Tel 07970 905102
Follow me on Twitter @SimonRecoveryC1