Karen Atkin: Recovery College – a new way of learning about mental health

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Suffering from mental ill health still carries a lot of stigma. Despite growing exposure in the media and numerous celebrities and members of the royal family showing support and openly talking about their own mental health problems, in the real world mental health is still kept behind an iron curtain of silence.

Mental Health Awareness Week (May 8-14) acts as a great opportunity to remind us that anyone, at any point in their life, may suffer from mental health problems just the same as they can suffer from physical ill health.

Many of us recover from episodes of mental health while for others it’s a process of learning to live with the illness.

This is why the Recovery College is such an important service. It’s about a new approach to mental health based on education, giving people hope that they can live a fulfilled life despite mental ill health and putting them in control of their own lives.

The college offers free courses to anyone who wants to know more about mental health, whether they are a service user, carer, professional or just someone interested in learning more – there is a course for everyone.

When we meet with our students for the first time we say to them that we’re not interested in their diagnosis, we’re more interested in them as people. The Recovery College is not about giving labels and definitions, we help people to build their resilience and empower them to move forward from being a service user to being an expert by experience.

We also employ people who have lived experience of mental ill health, so we really can say “we know what it’s like to be in your shoes, we’ve been there ourselves”.

Recovery is about believing in yourself, developing hope and optimism. It is something that we can achieve ourselves and not something that someone else can do for us, however health professionals can have an immensely positive impact on personal recovery.

We all have a desire to be in charge of our own lives – it is essential to our mental health whether we are a professional, a carer or a service user. Understanding ourselves is the first step to taking control of our lives and developing tools and coping strategies.

The Recovery College is here to help and I encourage anyone to come and enrol on our courses. For more information about us go to www.lpft.nhs.uk/recovery-college