Belfast Recovery College has grown to become a centre of educational excellence for Mental Health Education. A compelling vision was to open access to mental health education opportunities to all our people in the Belfast community to improve the well-being and mental ill health of everyone – Staff, Carers, Service Users, Friends and Family. So valuing the combined lived experience of mental health (Peer Educators) and professional knowledge (Mental Health Professional Educator), we were committed to placing the Belfast Recovery College in the heart of the Belfast Community. Another aspiration was to involve people from the community with lived experience of mental health together with mental health professionals to share their expertise together to inspire hope, promote control and give opportunities for learning about mental health recovery. Using this strength-based approach, our courses enable our students (Our People) to pursue their aspirations so that they can participate as equal citizens in economic, educational, social inclusion and family life.
The warm compassionate ethos and commitment of our Peer and Professional Educators have welcomed, encouraged and engaged our student community in the life of the College rising from 40 students in 2016 to 2633 in November 2020 with 5400 course enrolments. Our College scored a hat trick in 2019. Our people were recognised, and honoured by winning the 2019 ANTOUS All Ireland Adult Education Awards for Health and Wellbeing 2019, the Chairman’s WOW Awards and becoming the first Recovery College in the UK to receive Gold Star CPD Accreditation Award.
The following examples of engagement is a celebration of learning together as peer, professional and student having those compassionate open conversations to enhance learning for all.
- 430 students attended WRAP Level 1 (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) courses and are now enabled to provided Well-Being Plan sessions to others on a one-to-one basis;
- 30 Peer and Professional Educators were trained as WRAP CO-Facilitators to make Well-Being Plan courses available free in the Belfast Community;
- a peer student placement, coaching and mentoring programme was developed with Action Mental Health. Twelve students gained employment as peer support workers in the Belfast HSCT, returned to education, employment, voluntary work and engaged with family social supports;
- 110 students achieved an OCN Level 2 in Advocacy. This qualification prepared students with the foundation to access the next step of applying for Advocacy jobs in Northern Ireland and for self-advocacy. This means we are training Peer students to give a voice for themselves and to those who cannot speak for themselves and to engage in improving services for society;
- 15% rise in applications because of its partnership in the community and voluntary sector;
- Free Mental Health Education Webinars available to connect with students during COVD’19;
- a joint project with Child and Adult Mental Health Services – Discover the Recovery College aimed at engaging young people in mental health education increased applications by 20%;
Feedback and comments included:
- “Learning plans helped me find my identity again. When self-belief is there, there is hope that recovery is possible.”
- “As a Staff Educator, I no longer see the student as a patient on the course. I have a different role as an educator. Staff, carers, families, friends learning together – we are all students. I have had a real awakening.”
- “’Wellness’ and ‘recovery’ is celebrated.”
- “The Peer model is a way of feeling equal.”
By ‘Learning Together’ our People are “sharing knowledge, sharing experience and sharing lives.” (Bill McKnight, Peer Trainer & Dr. Rania, Psychiatrist 2016)
The Belfast Recovery College welcomes everyone to attend our free wellbeing and mental health education and learning programmes: