Introduction to Recovery Colleges
Between twenty and twenty five percent of the population in Northern Ireland suffer from some type of Mental Health illness. Yet each and every member of our community, despite any illnesses or challenges that they have, has the right to believe and the expectation to hope, that they can be the very best they can, now and in the future. Most people however, are unaware that they can expect some degree of Recovery in their lives.
Recovery is often referred to as a journey, outlook or vision for the future.
Recovery emphasises that, while people may not have full control over their symptoms, they can have full control over their lives. Recovery is not about ‘getting rid’ of problems. It is about a person seeing beyond their mental health problems, recognising and encouraging their abilities, interests and dreams. There is “no health without mental health”
Mental illness and social attitudes to these illnesses often impose limits on people. Health professionals, friends and families can be overly protective or pessimistic about what someone with a mental health problem will be able to achieve.
Recovery can be a voyage of self-discovery and personal growth, which does not impose limits on people. Experiences of mental illness can provide opportunities for change, reflection and discovery of new values, skills and interests.
Recovery is about looking beyond limits to help people achieve their own goals and aspirations and this is how Recovery Colleges developed.
These Colleges offer education rather than therapy as a route to Recovery from Mental Health Challenges and feature:
A change in the role of mental health professionals and professional expertise, moving from being ‘on top’ to being ‘on tap; not defining problems and prescribing treatments, but rather making their expertise and understanding available to those who may find it useful.
A recognition of the equal importance of both ‘professional expertise’ and ‘lived experience’ and a breaking down of the barriers that divide ‘them’ from ‘us’. This is reflected in the way that Recovery Colleges are operated, a different kind of workforce (Mental Health Professionals and people with lived experience of Mental Health challenges known as “Peers” ), and different working practices founded on co-production, co-delivery and shared decision making, at all levels.
People do not have to be referred by a GP or therapist to Recovery College courses,. they are open to anyone, who has an interest in a particular topic. They can join classes by completing a simple registration form.
There are five Recovery Colleges currently operating within Northern Ireland at this time, one within each of the Health Trusts and each offering a range of inspiring courses and workshops. They are a new initiative within the Province but have been operating within the rest of the U.K., very successfully for a number of years.