Recovery Colleges can transform mental health services, say Centre for Mental Health and NHS Confederation Mental Health Network

20 June 2012, London

Recovery Colleges can transform mental health services, say Centre for Mental Health and NHS Confederation Mental Health Network

Recovery Colleges can revolutionise mental health services and help people to fulfil their potential, according to the first in a series of briefing papers produced jointly by Centre for Mental Health and the NHS Confederation Mental Health Network.

Recovery is a process through which people find ways of living meaningful lives with or without the ongoing symptoms of their condition. Helping someone recover is not just about managing symptoms, it includes helping people find a job, getting them somewhere safe to live and developing supportive relationships with family:

  • Hope ensuring the possibility that it is possible to pursue people's personal goals and ambitions;
  • Control helping people to maintain a sense of control over their lives;
  • Opportunity supporting people to build their lives beyond mental illness;

The principles of recovery are now central to mental health services in England as well as the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Recovery represents the next big transformational change for mental health services in this country - on a par with the closure of asylums and the move to care in the community.

Recovery Colleges deliver comprehensive, peer-led education and training programmes within mental health services. They should be run like any other college, providing education as a route to Recovery, not as a form of therapy. Courses are co-devised and co-delivered by people with lived experience of mental illness and by mental health professionals. Their services should be offered to service users, professionals and families alike, with people choosing the courses they would like to attend from a prospectus.

There are currently four Recovery Colleges in England, with several more due to open soon. As well as offering education alongside treatment for individuals they also change the relationship between services and those who use them; they identify new peer workers to join the workforce; and they can replace some existing services.

A recent survey of people who participated in courses at the South West London Recovery College showed a significant reduction in use of community mental health services and a rise in the number who became mainstream students, gained employment or became a volunteer. Accompanying the briefing on recovery colleges is a second paper which looks at the progress NHS mental health services are making towards implementing recovery principles into their services.

Sean Duggan said: “Recovery Colleges enable people to become experts in their own self-care and develop the skills they need for living and working. They provide opportunities for peer support, for choice and control, and for supporting people to achieve their hopes and ambitions. With a Recovery College, mental health services can take a big step on the road towards making Recovery a reality for many more people.”

Mental Health Network director Steve Shrubb said: "Recovery represent the next big transformational change of the nation's mental health services. Recovery colleges are an important part of a quiet revolution taking place now in mental health.

"This is a major cultural and organisational challenge. At the start of the last century, we used to keep people with mental illness behind doors and out of the way. Now we know the best way to support them is to help them recover to lead more fulfilling lives and realise their potential.

"As leaders of NHS mental health organisations we want to lead and support this new approach to helping people make meaningful recoveries from mental illness."

Further information about ImROC and recovery has been published by the NHS Confederation:

Download Supporting recovery in mental health (962 KB)

Recovery Colleges

This ImROC briefing paper examines the central role that Recovery Colleges play in transforming mental health services to become recovery-focused.


Download size: 689 KB

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