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Rachel Perkins on matters recovery and Recovery Colleges

Surgeon, Professor Atul Gawande in 2014 Reith Lectures ‘The Future of Medicine’:

“We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being – and well-being is ultimately about sustaining the reasons one wishes to be alive

It was such an honour to sit in a forum with Rachel Perkins making a presentation on Recovery and Recovery Colleges. Rachel is an international expert on Recovery Colleges. She established the first Recovery College (RC) in 2009 in South West London.

On the afternoon of 9th July 2019, myself and my colleagues, staff from the mental health sector, both community and government, consumers and carers were delighted to be in this forum where Rachel explored recovery for people with lived experience of mental health issues.

Rachel discussed how a diagnosis of a mental health condition may be a devastating and life changing event. This made me reflect a bit more on it. Looking at mental health issues from a societal angle of stereotype, prejudice and discrimination made me see a different picture of the everyday challenges for people with lived experience.

Rachel has a captivating voice that draws you to pay attention and listen to every word

she has to say. Listening to her speak about the challenges that people with lived experience of mental health face when rebuilding their life and I couldn’t agree more that no amount of therapy can combat the prejudice and very real day to day challenges recovery involves.

Recovery is a personal journey that encapsulates hope, self-determination and taking control of one’s life, opportunity and equal citizenship. Mental health services do not provide recovery but supporting individuals in their recovery through ways that promote wellbeing and enable them access professional expertise and lived experience (what RCs do in an educational environment) will see them grow, discover their possibilities and live a fulfilling life.

My understanding of the Recovery College concept from the discussions, is that it’s a cocktail of lived experience of mental health combined with professional expertise in mental health issues in an educational setting. This means that it involves co-production and co-designing of courses based on this combination of experience. Since the RC is now up and running in Canberra, it was good to hear from someone who has been part of designing and establishing the RC in the UK. Participating in a Recovery College is a good start to rebuilding one’s life.

My parting shot from the day is that recovery is a personal journey but not one to be taken alone.

Esther, Policy and Sector Development Officer, MHCC ACT

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