Supporting service users

The Recovery College

Thanks to funds from generous donations, a new Recovery College has been launched. SLaM’s Recovery College provides a range of educational courses and resources for people with experience of mental illness, from service users to their family, friends and staff, to improve understanding of mental health. The courses, which are all free, are co-designed and co-run by service users and mental health professionals.

What recovery means

The college aims to support people on their journey to recovery by helping people to become experts in their own self-care, and to enable family, friends, carers and staff to better understand mental health conditions so that they can best help people through recovery.

The ethos of the Recovery College is to enable people with mental health difficulties to have the same opportunities in life as everyone else. The aim is to support people on their personal journey towards a meaningful and satisfying life, where hope and control is restored and people are able to live as well as possible.

The Recovery College offers a range of half-day workshops where people can gain an understanding of mental health such as particular diagnoses, or practical issues like the personal independence payment (PIP), which helps with the extra costs of long-term ill health. There are also some longer courses, including an Introduction to Mindfulness, that run over several weeks and allow people to develop their skills.

You can find out all about the courses available on the Recovery College website.

Designed by service users, run by service users

Tony is the new operations manager and helped develop the college. He knows what it’s like to be the one in need of help.

'A few years ago I lost everything – my family, home and job - because of my alcohol addiction and I was living on benefits and under NHS care,' he says. 'But I had always been a foodie and decided that writing a food blog would give me back some control.'

After filling his blog with 200 recipes, Tony launched 'The Skint Foodie' in January 2012. The witty hints and tips immediately won praise from followers on social media networks, and his appointment as operations manager in 2013 came shortly before receiving an Observer Food Magazine award for his blog.

'My work here and the blog have been the twin pillars of my recovery,' says Tony.

'I've even received offers for book publishing deals which is amazing, but for now I am focusing on my job and my recovery.'

Changing lives

Attending a mindfulness course at the Recovery College has given service user Lorraine a new approach to life.

'It has helped me move forwards and changed my whole outlook,' she says. 'Exploring new areas with people helps to get you out of your shell.'

'Its whole ethos is offering service users the hope, control and opportunity that has often been stripped from their lives by mental illness,' says Gabrielle Richards, head of occupational therapy and social inclusion for SLaM.

'An important feature is using people who have experiences of mental illness to design and teach the courses.'

Looking forward

The college has launched a new programme with more courses, running at the ORTUS Learning Centre at the Maudsley Hospital site and at Bethlem Hospital. There are plans to expand the range of courses on offer and number of college sites so that more people can benefit from the services.

'We've been able to grow quickly thanks to the generous funding from donors,' says Gabrielle. 'I am so excited and enthused by this project – it feels very different to anything I've done before.'

Projects like this are making a real difference to the lives of people with mental health issues. With your support, we can keep them running.