MENTAL health problems can pervade all aspects of a person’s life, and of their family’s lives, meaning solutions to tacking such health issues need to be equally pervasive.
That is exactly the aim of the Western Trust’s ‘Recovery College’ which offers course for everyone affected by mental health.
Whether you have been diagnosed with a serious condition, are simply trying to prevent your mental heath from deteriorating, or even if you are a carer or a family member living with a loved one with mental health difficulties, the College will have a course or class to help you.
“The courses are free and open to anybody to attend,” said Recovery College coordinator Olive Young. “You don’t have to be currently using mental health services or attending your GP or anything like that.”
“You don’t have to have a diagnosis either, you could just be interested in mental health,” added Bernadette Donaghy, lead peer educator at the College.
“You can be a carer or supporter, a member of staff.
“We’re all about increasing access to mental health services and getting it out there that mental health is a continuum, it’s not that you have good or poor mental health. We all need to take care of ourselves.”
Approaching mental health like any other medical condition, for example like physio following a broken bone or nutritional advice for those at risk of diabetes, the College classes and courses work in tandem with other acute health treatments. They are also “co-produced” between health professionals and those who have lived through mental health difficulties themselves.
“The courses are definitely educational,” said Ms Young, who worked as a community psychiatric nurse for many years. “They are coproduced by staff that work within our mental health services, whoever is best suited, alongside people who have lived through that particular experience or diagnosis.”
Ms Donaghy is one of those who has that lived experience, in her case depression, and is one of the College alumni.
“Everyone that you go to, there will always be someone with the lived experience as well as the people with the learned experience from working in that area,” she said. “You’re getting the best of both worlds.
“We find that whenever you hear somebody up the front talking about what they’ve been through, that really clicks with people, the students who are there.
“You do feel so alone sometimes, but when you have somebody who is up there talking about something similar to what you’ve been through, that actually takes away from that stigma.”
Ms Donaghy said the College had not only helped her through depression initially, but has helped stretch out the time between relapses by teaching her to recognise her triggers and practice self-care. It also helped give her hope though her condition.
“Whenever I was first diagnosed nobody actually said to me, you know, you’re going make a recovery here,” she said. “When you break your leg it’s different, there’s an end point. You get a cast on and get it off in a couple of weeks.
“The professionals I was working with probably did know things were going to get better but they didn’t explicitly say to me. That’s what is so hopeful about the College.
“We don’t sugar coat it, because we can’t say it’s a bed of roses when you have a mental health issue, but we do say you can make a recovery.”
The Recovery College holds classes, often one-off sessions, every Wednesday morning at Fermanagh House. It also hosts classes in Omagh and in other parts fo the Western Trust area, as well as holding a remote Zoom session once a week.
To find out more, join a class or course, or download a prospectus visit www.westerntrust.hscni.net/service/recovery-services/recovery-college/
You can also call 028 82833292 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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