My name is Angela Ryan. Just four years ago I struggled with a very severe form of mental illness. I was admitted to hospital several times and was supported by the West Berkshire Community Mental Health Team in Newbury. When I was ready I started to attend a ‘Recovery College’ in Hampshire. There are 32 Recovery Colleges in the UK. Everyone who attends is referred to as a ‘student’ (never patient or service user) and ‘carers’ of people who have mental health challenges are welcome to attend too. The aim of attending the courses is to help you to self-manage your mental health, build a new sense of self and purpose in life, discover your own resourcefulness and to pursue your own aspirations and goals.
This may sound a bit ‘wordy’ but it basically means that the courses help you to have a more meaningful and enjoyable life whether your mental health challenges are temporary or ongoing. All our courses are ‘co-produced’ (designed and delivered) by people with ‘lived experience’ and mental health professionals from West Berks Community Mental Health Team. We have already found that all our ‘students’ find the course leadership refreshing and gives them hope that ‘recovery’ is possible. When we talk about ‘recovery’, this doesn’t have to mean a ‘clinical recovery’ free of all symptoms but a ‘recovery’ that is all about what you want and how you manage your challenges and live your life.
Perhaps you struggle with anxiety or depression or have a mental health diagnosis of bipolar or similar mental health challenges. Our courses are free to anyone living in West Berkshire. If you live outside this area then please contact us and we will try to help you. Our courses include: a ‘bitesize’ course which is all about coming to our courses (it’s very informal and friendly and only 1.5 hours long), Five Ways to Wellbeing Course, Welcome to Recovery, Healthy Eating Workshops and Understanding Medication and Diagnosis courses.
So why did I start a Recovery College in West Berkshire? Last winter I tried to convince lots of people in the NHS and local services that we needed one for people living here. It helped me so much in my recovery that I wanted there to be one in West Berkshire. Travelling down to Winchester or Southampton was very difficult for me and I lost my driving licence twice due to the severity of my particular illness.
However, living in a time of austerity means that there is very little money for new services. So I set up Recovery in Mind as a social enterprise (a Community Interest Company) in April 2016. I have received so much support from local individuals, trusts and organisations that I can offer a variety of courses free of charge. We are based in Broadway House near the Clock Tower in Newbury. We have training rooms which we use and later in 2017 we will be going out and delivering our courses in different locations across West Berkshire. We are growing and would very much welcome new ‘students’ who would like to improve their mental health. Have a look at our website where all our courses are explained in detail. There’s also a contact box on the website so do get in touch if you have any questions.
So four years on I am well and enjoying my new life working in mental health. When I was unwell my world was turned up-side-down. So much happened I could write a book about it! I was the last person who was ever going to struggle with mental health problems. I lost my confidence, my sense of who I was and doubted I would ever recover. Not only have I survived but I have ‘thrived’. It’s been a difficult journey but I really ‘get’ mental health and am already seeing the benefits of Recovery in Mind courses for people living in our community. To end here’s what some of our students have said about the courses…..
- ‘Highly valuable’
- ‘Worthwhile, encouraging and eye-opening’
- ‘Positive and motivating’