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Jane Melton is Director of Engagement and Integration at 2gether NHS Foundation Trust. She has been involved in the Severn & Wye Recovery College since the beginning, supporting colleagues in developing and delivering the college. We spoke to Jane about the increasing emphasis on recovery in mental health services in the UK, and how she’s helping to support changes at the 2gether Trust.

What is your involvement in the recovery college?

Prior to the job I have now, I was a clinical director in the organisation, working alongside Anna Burhouse. So I’ve been involved with the recovery college from the start, supporting its set up and development. It’s been a joy to see how the college has flourished and inspired people. It’s been fantastic.

My background is as an occupational therapist, so the recovery college model – which helps people to help themselves – sits much more comfortably with me than more traditional medical models of mental health care.

How does the recovery college fit with the 2gether Trust’s goals?

Our organisation has really invested time and resources in thinking about how we can push forward a more socially inclusive approach for the people we support, one which enables people to fully take part in society. It’s about the whole ethos of our organisation, not just what services we offer clinically.

Look at the big picture in the UK. We’re moving from an approach, 100 years ago, where we had a ‘hospital on the hill’ for people with mental health problems. People were essentially excluded from their usual communities.

The whole system of mental health care is changing. Even 30 years ago, at the start of my career, our offer to people with mental health problems was very different.

We want our organisation to be at the forefront of the shift to a much more inclusive, empowered, less stigmatised system of supporting people who experience mental health problems.

We’ve done lots of things to shift attitudes and support health professionals to think in a recovery-oriented way – but the recovery college is that extra piece that allows people to shine, and demonstrates that people can make a huge contribution alongside their experience of mental health problems.

Why do you think the recovery college has been so successful?

It sees people as students in their own recovery. At its core it’s optimistic about recovery, it has hope as a central thread. Where people are feeling hopeless, the fact that others around are supportive, have peer experiences that are openly shared – it has a nurturing, flourishing, optimistic effect. Those principles, I think, are a helpful catalyst for people.

And it has a normalising principle too. One in four of us will experience mental health problems. All of us will experience people around us with mental health problems. The college includes families, it includes staff – it’s a very levelling approach.

The other thing is it celebrates success. We’re not always very good at that. It’s easy to forget the steps that people take, which are huge leaps really.

The recovery college is really helping people to take control of their own care, supporting people while also tackling stigma about mental health and encouraging people to feel included in society. It’s been part of a really strong shift forward, which has been good for individuals – the people that we serve as an organisation, but also colleagues in the organisation – and good for the organisation in general, and the community at large.

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