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Recovery Colleges - a new concept in mental health care. Friday May 19, 2017

Recovery in mental health terms is not seen in the same way as physical health. There, staff think of it in terms of a cure. For mental health staff, recovery is a concept of a journey through life not a 'cure'.

Health education is being seen as the way forward in mental health care and being provided by Recovery Colleges. (These colleges are only available in the UK - if you know of any similar services in other countries, please add a comment to this blog.)

Recovery Colleges provide courses about all aspects of health and well-being with a mental health slant in the community. You do not have to have a diagnosis or even be under the care of mental health care teams or other Doctors to access. Family members and carers are also eligible. It's self referral and provided free by the NHS.

Courses cover living skills like confidence and self esteem as well as specific mental health conditions. As the number of courses grow they will cover health topics from birth to death and address mental health issues of physical illness.

I'm a volunteer tutor for my local Recovery College, I am that 'Someone with Lived experience' with nearly 40 years of experience to comment on, what's worked – or didn't and why, for me.

The philosophy behind these courses is radical in health care terms, as they are being co-developed and delivered by a 'Professional' and equally by 'Someone with Lived experience". That uniqueness of 'equal but joint' reflects a slow acceptance that we, the 'Persons with Lived Experience' have a lot to share and teach each other.

Moodscope is a great example of this. Developed as a result Jon's 'lived experience' he developed a beneficial tool to track mood, it helped to raise mood. Yet in class, I've not meet another 'Moodscoper' but I know it helped me gain insight. Professionals I meet say they've heard of it but haven't used it. I advocate it strongly, every opportunity I get. Hoping my experience gives students another tool to gain insight.

My Recovery College is less than two years old. I have co-facilitated and been a student. Combining theory with reality, it's often the sharing 'this has worked for me' ideas that I have learnt most from.

Maslow's theory - Hierarchy of Needs, discusses how to get 'added value' from life. To achieve a good life, you need to strive for the top of the pyramid (self actualisation). Recently I heard a colleague talk passionately of his own experience - that he can only live well when he concentrates, on the often over looked base of the pyramid - sleep, food, exercise etc. It was for me a 'lightbulb moment' - the relevancy of theory and reality.

Insight empowers, helping you on your journey of recovery. Education is one route, it's the balance of theory with reality is what is empowering about Recovery College courses.

For more information about your local Recovery College search your Mental Health Services Trust website, if they don't have one, email their PALS office and request one.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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LP Fri, May 19th 2017 @ 6:53am

Hi Karen,
I'm so glad to hear about this investment into mental health.

I must revisit Maslow's hierachy of need. I cant remember exactly what is on it after the basic survival needs. I think that to be loved and a sense of belonging are on it.
I've never fully understood the word " actualisation" so am not clear about what I'm aiming for! Is it knowing ones self? Fulfilment? Enlightenment?

It's great that the recovery colleges are available free.
Thank you for letting us know, I hadnt heard of them yet and hope they'll be promoted widely.
Good Wishes to you and all. :) LP x

LP Fri, May 19th 2017 @ 7:05am

Just looked it up! Self Actualisation means serenity, contentment. From the bottom of the pyramid of human needs going upwards are Physiological needs, Safety needs, Love/belonging, Esteem, then finally at the top is Self Actualisation. LP x

Tutti Frutti Fri, May 19th 2017 @ 8:21am

Hi Karen
Thanks for this. I went on a few recovery college courses when I last came out of hospital in 2012 having gone manic. I did about 3 and what I got out of them was a bit variable to be honest. The mindfulness one was great and the assertiveness one had some good practical stuff (although I found it quite annoying that one of the other attendees was really not all that stable yet and tended to dominate the session). I was less impressed with the course about bipolar as the assistant tutor with the lived experience and I really didn't see eye to eye on meds (I think meds are useful unless for some reason your body really can't tolerate any of them, while she didn't take meds and seemed to be encouraging this. I wasn't in a great place at the time though so perhaps i misinterpreted her and she put a more even handed view than I remember.) I did however find that this assistant tutor was really lovely and supportive when I went down into a depression after trying to go back to work too early. So as well as the actual course content, I think the college had lots of other advantages in terms of support, getting out, meeting people, getting a bit of structure etc. I hadn't realised that the recovery college was available on self referral as i was referred by my team in the immediate aftermath of leaving hospital. Thanks for the work you are doing in the recovery college and for making us more aware.
Love TF x.

Tutti Frutti Fri, May 19th 2017 @ 9:26am

PS I have just added a comment for SW Mum on yesterday's blog. TF x

Holly Fri, May 19th 2017 @ 11:00am

Thank you for this blog post Karen! I didn't even know Recovery College existed! Will definitely look into that :)

And I totally agree about the theory as well as a person's experiences. I think I am able to understand the context of what I have been through because of theory, and in turn am able to help others in a 'lived experience' way too.

Also, love Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs!

The Gardener Fri, May 19th 2017 @ 11:32am

What a good idea - hope they succeed. I think TF speaks for many of us who have been on these sort of courses/treatments - personalities matter so much - lack of empathy will drive you away, and it pays to look into self, why am I there? Because, possibly, other avenues have failed - perhaps looking for a 'miracle' and there is none. I've said before, I left Samaritans because many of the 'Sams' were full of their OWN self-importance, even ignoring professional advice on how to deal/not to deal with some of our most persistent callers - for whom the Samaritans was another 'dependency' which they were trying to be 'weaned' off. I don't know how one 'pushes' Moodscope - I have friends whom I am sure it would benefit - I do mention how much help I get - but I am sure many see it as I did at first, possibly manipulative, addictive or costing money. To cite the 'Hierarchy of Needs' above, my need is contact and communication - much of that is unavailable to me now, so the daily blogs and posts are now a vital part of my life. Back again to TF - meds are a bone of contention. When Mr G is in hospital he has a pattern of medication, at home it does not work - because the ambience of professional surveillance and the poor old put-upon wife is very different. Mary Wednesday is delighted with her new medication - I should think lots of people think 'that's for me' and need not be the case at all.

Melanie Fri, May 19th 2017 @ 2:11pm

Karen, thank you so much for this information - I did not know that Recovery Colleges existed either - seem like a very good idea. Nor had I heard of PALS - and Mr Google has helped - it is the NHS' Patient Advice and Liaison Service. Also thank you for the timely reminder - I really like what your colleague said - it is so easy to think (when considering Maslow's hierarchy of needs) that one has the bottom foundation sorted - have place to live, eat well etc - however there is more to it than that - it is about me myself having the discipline to ensure my basic needs of enough sleep, exercise, nutritious food, being sociable, getting outside, finding opportunities to smile and laugh and to give to others - are met every day. If I have not done this, how can I hope for self actualisation?

Benjamin Fri, May 19th 2017 @ 2:15pm

Recovery is a common idea across much of medicine. Certainly, some chronic diseases focus instead on management, but fewer and fewer areas have the common experience of acute cure. Microbiology, for example, is increasingly discussing microbiome normalization.

With this idea, then 'sequelae' become integrated into the original problem. Of course, this makes no sense for extreme trauma, where the infections (and immuno-compromise, and neurological issues, etc) can be tied to the insult (car accident, bomb,...) but are so distinct from the acute care [lifesaving measures, then physical stabilization] as to be sensibly segregated out as 'resulting medical conditions' rather than part of the original trauma.

Orangeblossom Sat, May 20th 2017 @ 11:06am

Thanks for the very informative blog about the Recovery Colleges. They seem such an excellent idea, I shall look them up.

Becky Sat, May 20th 2017 @ 11:10pm

I tried to use the recovery college where I briefly lived a couple of years ago, but the courses were all several hours long, all within a single day. Not really ideal for many people with mental health conditions, and on weekdays so not available to people who could sustain such a period and so were working. and certainly too long for me to contemplate.

The idea was mooted here awhile ago but it met with a fair bit of resistance as the budget for it was to be taken from pre-existing mental health services, which have been cut so much anyway. Education is essential, but so is care, support and groupwork. Also the proposition was to use a combination of paid staff (not, overtly at least, people with mental health conditions), and volunteers (being the contributors with mental Heath conditions). There was no concept that educators with such valuable experience should be paid, like the 'sane' members of staff. TBH the whole model was full of holes.

And I never understand the term 'lived experience' - what other kind of experience is there?

I think the value of the recovery college model is that, as you say, it is open access and self referral. You don't have to jump through a load of hoops to join in. Also, it's one of the few models that sees the input of people with experience, and who actually use the techniques being taught, as essential. But it needs to be more equitable and easier to access than the two examples I've seen.

Jane Mon, May 22nd 2017 @ 9:30pm

While it is good and fair to point out that understanding of the word RECOVERY differs between physical and mental health staff, it must also be remembered that the general public seem only to understand the use of the word recovery to mean 'cure'.
As a 63 year old woman with a recent diagnosis of BPD I have completed the STEPPS 20 week course. My children were pleased that I was doing it. Some time after the end of the course something in a conversation with my son triggered me to tears and he said, "I thought all this would stop now that you've done the course. This is from an educated civil engineer aged 36 - what hope is there for the rest of society to acknowledge the different meanings of RECOVERY?
In view of this almost universal misunderstanding I NEVER use the word recovery when talking about my mental health. I will say I am in remission but the underlying condition has not gone.( a bit like a cold-sore) I imagine that most public opinion will land on my side of the fence if the continuing rise in people completing suicide is to be taken into consideration. Some of that group have been well-known campaigners for mental health both here and abroad.
I am learning to MANAGE my condition and I believe that is as much as I can ever hope to do.
The word RECOVERY does not apply.
I fear that insistence on its use can only serve to confuse the public and eventually devalue the credibility of the bodies which choose to use it.

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