Written by Rosie Howell
Did you know that there are over 40 recovery colleges now in operation, mainly in England but also throughout the rest of the UK, Italy, Australia and Japan? The first recovery college was opened in South West London in 2009, shortly followed by the Nottingham Recovery College in 2011.
Did you also know that, according to a recent study using feedback forms, 97% of students said they would be “likely” or “extremely likely” to recommend the Recovery College to friends, family or colleagues? And 96% of students said that the course they attended was “good” or “excellent”?
Although the development in recovery colleges is still in its very early stages, we can already see how much of a difference they are making to people lives. We use education to help people, rather than treatment. This empowers people to take that knowledge, and use it in the best way they can for their own recovery. We use three main ingredients, which run through the entire college: hope, control and opportunity.
By using an educational approach, our students are able to choose their own courses, work out ways of making sense of what has happened, and they are able to be in control and manage their own lives.
All of our peer trainers have their own lived experience of mental health challenges, and to me personally, that in itself is a huge confirmation of just how a recovery college can truly change someone’s life.
Take our peer trainer Scott, for example. Scott was a successful primary school teacher, special educational needs coordinator and a member of the senior management team. However, during an 18 month period, Scott tragically lost five family members and two friends. As I’m sure you can imagine this affected him massively.
Scott soon after became very unwell. He was diagnosed with severe depression and acute anxiety. Add to this, he had taken to drinking to cope with his feelings, and was soon after told he was a chronic alcoholic by his GP.
Scott was first introduced to the Recovery College through an alcohol clinic he had been attending. He saw the prospectus, and made an appointment to meet with the college manager. Scott met with Helen and booked on to three courses. This was in August 2011. Since then, Scott has gone on to become a college volunteer, and eventually progressed and is now a full time member of staff at our Recovery College.
This is just one of the many cases of people who have gathered the courage to take back control of their lives, attended the Recovery College and been able to find a light at the end of a seemingly endless tunnel.