A new type of education for people living with mental health problems How peer support is transforming long term condition management at Severn & Wye Recovery College

Our film, Recovery college: from mental health patient to recovery student, features the Severn & Wye Recovery College. This was set up by the 2gether Trust in 2013 to provide a new way to support people living with mental health problems. We look at how the college developed and the way it is harnessing peer support to help people manage their own recovery in the long term.

People living with mental health problems often experience a lack of adequate support to help them make positive changes to their lives and to address the impact of living with a long-term mental health condition.

Recovery colleges are designed to be safe supportive spaces where people with enduring mental health problems can develop the skills, techniques and knowledge they need to be able to manage their own recovery. This helps people to lead happier, healthier lives, with less need for intensive crisis support.

Pop up colleges in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire

The Severn & Wye Recovery College was developed by 2gether, a specialist NHS Foundation Trust providing social and mental health care for people in Gloucestershire and Herefordshire. The team worked in partnership with people who had personal experience of mental health problems to design the college and its courses.

They also worked closely with other organisations, including Gloucestershire Adult Education Services, Herefordshire Adult Education Services, Herefordshire MIND, Artshape and Family Lives.

There are other recovery colleges around the country, but a particular challenge the 2gether team had to tackle was the large rural area their college covered. Rather than having a fixed base, the college uses a ‘pop-up’ model, holding courses and taster days in different places, like local colleges and adult education centres, to enable wider participation and access.

Training and coaching from peers

The college focuses on teaching the practical self-management skills people need to manage their own condition. Importantly, these courses are led by people who have experienced mental health problems themselves. They are called peer trainers.

As well as teaching and running seminars, the peer trainers share their own personal stories and provide powerful examples of recovery.

The Severn & Wye Recovery College also has a strong focus on coaching and each student is offered three one-to-one coaching sessions to support them in achieving their goals. For some students these goals included getting back to work or into education. Other students worked on more personal goals like getting out of the house more, building confidence and taking care of their health.

Helping people achieve goals and move forward

Since the Severn & Wye Recovery College started in 2013, it’s helped over 285 people. Some of its graduates have now become peer trainers themselves.

An early evaluation of the impact of the college showed that 94% of students said they felt more hopeful for the future after attending the college. Students also said they felt more knowledgeable, had greater self-awareness, better relationships with others and had improved their daily routines.

Funding has been secured to continue running the college in Gloucestershire, and the team are continuing to improve how it works. The team are also now developing a ‘Discovery College’, a version of the college for people aged 16-25, that is being produced in partnership with young people.

More about the Severn & Wye Recovery College

Working together to design the Recovery College: an interview with Anna Burhouse

Increasing the emphasis on recovery in mental health services: an interview with Jane Melton

The power of peer support at the Severn & Wye Recovery College

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