There are many ways you can get involved with Sussex Recovery College:
- You can enrol as a student, attend courses and join the student union to influence the development of the college
- You can volunteer as a student rep.
- You can volunteer as a buddy to help other people attend the college
- You can apply to become a peer trainer or carer trainer next time we advertise
- You can suggest courses you would like us to run or attend open forum meetings in your local area about the development and running of the college and campus.
- You can offer to co-facilitate courses as a mental health professional
What do we need:
We especially need Buddies and student reps.
Buddies meet up and help to support students attend courses and engage with the recovery college. This might be just accompanying them on a journey or meeting them outside a venue or it could be supporting someone in the classroom.
Student reps represent the voice of students in the development and running of the recovery college - this may include attending steering group meetings at the local campus, organising student union meetings to find out the views of students, advising us on what to include on the website or in the prospectus.
We need people to set up and run the student union. The student union is gaining strength in Hastings. We are looking for volunteers who want to become student reps and help set up the Student Union in the rest of East Sussex, Brighton and Hove or West Sussex. In future student reps might produce a Sussex Recovery College newsletter.
All volunteers get support and expenses.
If you want to get more involved as a volunteer, please contact us:
telephone 0300 303 8086
Buddies are volunteers who support students to get to college. This might include going to meet someone at home and travelling to courses together; attending courses with someone. During registration and when we first meet students, we ask them about any physical, mental or learning disabilities, and other support needs they may have. We identify which students might benefit from a buddy and then match the buddy with the student. We offer support and supervision and pay expenses to buddies. We hope this means the college can be as accessible as possible to all students whatever their needs.
Reflections on being a buddy
I’m so glad that last year I became a buddy volunteer. I was introduced to a prospective student at his home, where I spent time getting to know him. This person had low self-esteem and had not been able to attend previous classes because of this. I understood his concerns as I am similar to him.
On the first day of our class, I sat next to him and we did group work as a pair. Throughout the class and at break time I gave him support and encouragement. I think that my presence there for him made a difference. Over the weeks I noticed that he was slowly coming out of his shell and he engaged with group participation. I saw his confidence grow.
It was rewarding to see him blossom; to see him get so much from the recovery college classes. I definitely get joy from helping people; it is in giving that you receive.
Sandra Reakes, Volunteer buddy
We are associated with the Student Union and have access to student cards. Please click here. You need to phone us first for a voucher code on 03003038086
We will help you with any needs that we are able to make reasonable adjustments for: this might be larger print handouts, text reminders about courses, providing a buddy for you or anything else we can help you with.
We ask you to attend and make full use of the resources available to you. You will fill out an Individual Learning Plan so you can establish some goals to work towards and we have a sense of what you would like to achieve with us.
We hold our courses at venues that are as close as we can get to a further education environment. We usually provide refreshment during the breaks.
We ask that you engage with the learning process as much as possible and abide by the code of conduct which revolves around respect for others.
"Hello! My name is Hazel and I consider myself extremely lucky to have experienced several of the Recovery College Courses. I would highly recommend them to others, especially anyone on a personal journey towards more positive health and well being.
The Courses offer a great variety in content, style and in length. From a one off philosophical session on ‘The Meaning of Life’, to two tasty weeks of ‘Food and Mood’ (with a shared lunch!), eight theory based weeks of athletic ‘Exercise Albion’, six creative weeks of ‘Writing for Recovery’ to a full ten week, skills packed journey towards ‘Recovery’, and many more!
All of the Courses have a common thread running through them. Which is I feel is their biggest strength. This is that Course Leaders, both Peer Trainers and Professionals have warm and compassionate personalities; working together to deliver amazing Courses. Peer Trainers demonstrate a vast wealth of ‘money can’t buy’ lived experience; creating inspiring and down to earth learning experiences. Our skilled Professionals impart in depth research theories in an accessible and non- patronising way. Courses are often fun and uplifting, and always welcoming
Friendships and shared experience from classmates helped glue the courses together where an atmosphere of mutual support was fostered as we learned from one another.
The ‘Recovery’ Course team deserve a special mention for going the extra mile. Not only for their wide range of creative teaching methods, rapport, and infectious enthusiasm and support. . . . . . but for their extraordinary and delicious cake baking skills!
My only complaint is that the Courses weren’t long enough! I would like to thank everyone involved with the Recovery College. ‘Thank-You!’ Both for the ‘R C Experience’ and knowledge, and the take home skills. I hope to go on to train as a peer supporter, and to stay in touch with the Recovery College team as I progress."
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A Peer Trainer is someone who has lived experience of mental health problems and has shown that they have been able to use recovery tools to sustain good management of their difficulties. We have Peer Trainers from a wide spectrum of mental Health challenges giving us the ability to provide a good range of course from anything from Mindfulness to Managing psychosis. All our Peer trainers in Sussex have at least level 3 adult education qualification that used to be called PTTLS [Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector] or the Award in Education and Training.
Many of our Peer Trainers have a background of Peer Support or teaching in other areas but this is by no means a requirement.
Peer trainers' lived experience may also come from their experience of being a supporter, relative or carer of someone with mental health challenges. Sometimes these trainers are called Peer Carer Trainers.
Peer trainers are responsible for co-developing and producing courses alongside a mental health practitioner or clinician [co-facilitators] who has experience through training but can also [and quite often] have had mental health challenges of their own at one time or another.
Peer Trainers often take on roles outside of this, for example, in steering groups and can teach elsewhere as well. Peer Trainers meet regularly in group meetings and have supervision to make sure that any issues that arise can be dealt with in the best way possible. Many Peer Trainers will have gone on courses themselves to widen their own knowledge of Recovery and will have professional training in other areas of mental health and teaching.
Peer Trainer role
As a peer trainer my role at Hastings Recovery College is to use my personal experience of my own mental health issues alongside my teacher training to deliver courses with my co-trainers.
For me this has been an incredible experience. One of my fears was that as a former service user I was recruited as a token gesture but from the first day I was treated as an equal, with my new colleagues - professionals with years of training and experiences, seeking my opinion and making decisions based on it. This to me demonstrates how much more respect is given to people living with mental health issues now and how passionate professionals are about supporting them in their recovery. Using my own experiences to help others was very rewarding and hopefully my role helps others to see that their mental health issues needn’t be a barrier to living the life they want.
One of the most inspiring things about my previous term at the Recovery College was speaking to the students who came. Some had been involved with services a long time, others had only recently started their recovery journey but all of them had made the decision to come along and try something new in the hope that they could learn something that may help them. That showed me the amazing strength that people have and seeing how much people enjoyed and took away from the sessions is why I feel so privileged that I get a chance to be part of Hastings Recovery College again this year.
Being a peer trainer:
"I became a peer trainer after the role being suggested as I was actually having difficulties managing my mental health. I had said to the practitioner that I was fed up with talking about my problems. I needed to do something constructive with my problems.
I met the team and immediately felt at ease with the group of people and straight away felt part of a positive team keen to make a difference and impact on peoples’ lives.
I was a bit of a late comer [I was always called a ‘late starter’ in my early years] and in a few days the PTTLS training begun, an intensive course on teaching adults which would give me a vocational qualification and enhance my already practiced teaching skills. The group bonded quickly and with our own set of shared difficulties and goals it was easy to make friends and feel needed.
AS we were going through this, our own course, our minds were also being challenged by thinking about the types of courses best suited to us to deliver to our students. We formed relationships with practitioners and other professionals and, for the first time in a long time, I felt part of a properly engaged and professional team with high standards and wanted goals where I and my new colleagues were able to use our skills that, in some cases, had been completely dormant for years due to illness and lack of opportunities.
The first day of our first courses there was an apprehension of whether or not we would be able to deliver something different, something unique that would reach people who have found other methods of learning how to self-manage. It was soon apparent that our courses, delivering information through both practitioners and peers at an equal level really gave our student a lot to work with. Being able to adapt answers and suggestions to individual points raised is something often a practitioner with no lived-experience could provide and equally the practitioners advice and tips would be answers the peers weren’t necessarily able to provide themselves and working as an equal partnership gave neither option true precedence and therefore the students were able to use whichever training they felt appropriate.
I can tell you that it was very difficult for me to hold back tears of admiration and joy when I saw one particular student go up on stage and deliver a speech in front of 100 people. It was a big enough leap for me but for this particular student the journey was far further and done far quicker. That student had needed to be brought into the first session of my first course terrified of being in a group. That student had attended almost all of our courses and to see the result was uplifting and if you were to ask me what the highpoint of the experience was, that was it.
Being placed in a position where I can make significant changes to others’ lives and watch people grow and move on built on those small steps, I helped with, is better medication for me than any anti-depressant. I feel this is where I belong. I can pool all of my talents and experience, become part of a great team and grow my own self-esteem and sense of self-worth into the bargain. The confidence and experiences I have had have had the most positive influence on my Personal-development than any other activity I have engaged with."
We also sometimes take on associate peer trainers – this is a volunteer trainee role and we provide the training and supervised experience they need to go on to apply to become peer trainers. This includes them completing the ‘Preparing to teach in the life-long learning sector’ (PTTLS) accredited level 4 teaching qualification. We advertise, interview and recruit peer trainers and associate peer trainers on a regular basis. [contact us to go on a mailing list ready for when we are next recruiting
Most of the peer trainers have lived experience of personal experience of mental health challenges but we do also recruit relatives and carers of people with mental health challenges, learning disabilities and dementia for specific courses where the carer perspective is especially valuable
When we are not actively recruiting peer trainers for Sussex Recovery College you can also apply to join the Sussex Partnership Peer Trainer and Peer Support worker bank at any time
“It was great to be offered training in “Preparing to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector” and to receive a qualification at the end. It was very hard work as it was an intensive course with many essay deadlines, but I definitely learnt a lot about how to make sessions inclusive and to use a variety of teaching materials including visuals.” ,
“I worked alongside several professionally trained staff, we all worked together very well, and I think we also learnt from each other”
We welcome the involvement of mental health professionals, whatever organisation they work for. They bring their expertise by clinical or professional training. Mental health professionals co-produce and teach courses as part of their job with the partner organisation. We also take graduate interns who help with the development and running of the college.
If you want to propose a course you might teach at the recovery college or get involved generally please get in touch.
Trainers include occupational therapists, employment speicalists, psychologists, nurses and psychiatrists.
The key to the success of the Recovery College is the relationship between the mental health professional and the Peer Trainer. The Co-Production occurs on an equal footing. The Practitioner will have no more authority on content of the Course than the Peer Trainer and Vice Versa.
‘There is no doubt about it the service users love hearing about the lived experience - so valuable!!’
Mental Health Professional
‘The best thing about Recovery College for me was seeing how successful running groups/courses could be in Recovery – managing one’s symptoms – giving people choice in mental health ‘treatment’ and seeing the strong element of peer support’ mental health professional
I am an Occupational Therapist in the Assessment and treatment team at Cavendish house. I undertook the PPTL’s training to enhance my skill set in delivering the Recovery Course in a more education based way, and align it with Recovery college principles.
It has been refreshing to look at things through the perspective of an educator rather than a clinician. The trainer/educator part of the role has allowed me to embrace the concept of joint learning and reduced the emphasis that the professional holds all the answers because of course we don’t!
It has been inspiring to see how students flourished in a learning environment, growing in confidence to share their own ideas and disagree on certain things without harming relationships with each other.
I found it challenging devising lesson plans to cater for every learning style but it is worth the investment to ensure that all learners are gaining the most from the course, and achieve their own learning objectives.
I would recommend anyone who enjoys meeting people from a wide cross section of society, are keen to learn about mental health recovery and improving their own wellbeing to get involved. We all learn something about ourselves and other people along the way; the emphasis is on a journey together, where what you learn and how you learn it can be surprising and profound.
Trainer with Expertise by Professional Training
‘It has been amazing to be in a learning environment with such a broad range of people. I have co-produced and taught a course on understanding psychosis and another on improving your sleep. I have seen some of the students really blossom as they have learned new ways of understanding or making sense of mental health challenges; and others whose lives have been transformed by learning how to manage their distressing voices or their insomnia. Sometimes quite simple information has made all the difference, like not drinking caffeine in the evening. The classes have been a pleasure to teach.’
Mental health professional