Powered by POP, a pioneering mental health project launches in Plymouth to boost recovery rates across the city.
It was listening to the experience of someone with a bipolar diagnosis that made Carla Humphrey reconsider where her life, and her studies, were going. A second-year Counselling degree student in Plymouth, Carla was steadily learning about ‘mental health’ when she took part in a series of pioneering workshops from the newly formed Plymouth Recovery and Empowerment Group. The opportunity to hear first-hand from people living with mental health challenges was, she says, quite simply life-changing:
“There was this one woman,” says Carla, “who was bipolar, and she was describing what it felt like during one of her ‘manic’ episodes. I didn’t realise quite what these manic parts of their lives were like, but now, because she was so open to share, I have a much better idea of what people can experience and how it might feel”.
The Plymouth REG collective, funded by POP, employs a method of learning around mental health recovery that is unique; radical and successful. It brings together – as co-producers – experts with lived experience with experts working in the profession to deliver a series of mental health and wellbeing workshops which are open to all and free-of-charge. The REG consists of several mental health organisations, including Livewell Southwest; Devon Mind and Colebrook Southwest along with several peer-led projects in Plymouth, such as Marbles Lost and Found; Hope in the HeART and Truwellbeing who, working collaboratively, aim to increase the level of ‘learning’ about mental health recovery and, in doing so, increase the rates of recovery across the city. Elina Baker, the clinical psychologist from Livewell leading the project, says it is a unique learning opportunity and an extremely powerful one:
“Not only does it give those who have experienced mental health problems the chance to lead others, but research shows that participating in a learning environment such as this, helps them in their own recovery.”
With workshops about, for example, coping with mental health difficulties; the effects on the body of trauma and medication, those with lived experiences are finding that by sharing their experiences they are helping to change the way ‘recovery’ is addressed in the city. Carla, a student at Plymouth Marjon University, says, listening to the accounts from individuals with extreme moods who have been ‘treated’ by the NHS and hearing about what they feel worked for them has, she says, given her a rare and invaluable learning opportunity:
“I get to listen to people who really are the experts in lived experience and listen to them saying that ‘this actually doesn’t work for me’, but that something else did, and it is really, powerful. And that is what’s so rich about these workshops.”
At Plymouth REG, everyone is treated equally; everyone is treated as an expert, and everyone is given the opportunity to speak and to be listened to. Research shows that this method of co-production is not just extremely empowering for the participants but, that this ‘empowerment’ is crucial to a person’s recovery:
“We can give people hope,” says Elina, “challenge stigma and support people to move forward from mental health challenges.”
Despite only starting in September, the Plymouth REG has already made a significant impact on some of those taking part. Feedback from the workshop on mental health medication and ‘treatments’ suggest potential new avenues to be explored. Carla was so moved by the lived experience of the person diagnosed bipolar that it has inspired her with the subject matter for her final year research project. It’s unlike anything, she says, she has learnt at university:
“It was really powerful and beautiful, and I feel like everyone should have this opportunity.”
The next workshop available from the Plymouth REG and open to all, including families and clinical staff, will be “All in the body: moving on from trauma”. It will be held on November the 3rd, the 10th and the 17th between 10.30 & 12.30 at Leadworks in Rendell Street.
To book a place click here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/all-in-the-body-moving-on-from-trauma-workshop-tickets-419152034017
For more information about the work of the Plymouth Recovery and Empowerment Group visit www.plymouthreg.com