In February 2017, a group of academics, researchers and “Lived experience” volunteers came together to explore the character, dynamic and outcomes of recovery colleges. The volunteers came from Leicester, London and Brighton, and were made up of people who had experienced mental health illness and attended a college, a carer of a person using the college and someone of mental ill health who had chosen to currently not attend a college. The group endeavoured through literature review, energetic discussion and challenge, to understand what a recovery college was, what and how it delivered learning experiences for those people experiencing mental ill health, and the longer term outcomes for all those involved in the recovery college community.
We agreed to meet 4 times in the year, and in the true spirit of co-leadership, thrashed out a meaningful and descriptive concept of recovery colleges that could reflect both academically relevant information and valuable real life experience. Our group fostered active listening, respectful argument and an openness and honesty that gave an authentic voice to our subsequent papers. The uniqueness of all the participants – academic and not, made a truly kaleidoscopic experience which we all hope will encourage you to learn more and get involved in recovery colleges yourself.
Written by Emma Munday – Bipolar, slightly old, human.
We jelled from the start
The group together
Our experience we pooled
Our knowledge coalesced
Thoughts and feelings
Used for research
Giving inner strength
Sense of self worth
Poem written by Jane, who said, ‘I have been a mental health service user for most of my life and have suffered with bipolar disorder. I have found that being involved in the RECOLLECT project has been informative, useful and empowering to me. I have enjoyed meeting with people with a common goal and talking and working together has been a lovely experience.
The RECOLLECT study has been based at the Institute of Mental Health, funded by a Programme Development Grant from the National Institute for Health Research and led by Professor Mike Slade. Emma and Jane wrote their respective contributions to this blog after participating in all four meetings of the Lived Experience Advisory Group to support the delivery of RECOLLECT. You can find out more by contacting Peter Bates, PPI lead at the Institute of Mental Health or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.