The road to recovery

Martin Doherty

Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust (GMMH) and its Recovery Academy provides a range of free educational courses and resources for people with mental health and substance misuse problems. The Recovery Academy employs people with lived experience to co-facilitate sessions along with an experienced clinician. Martin O'Doherty shares his experience as a co-facilitator at the Academy.

After graduating as an occupational therapist eight years ago, I became ill with depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This prevented me from working in my chosen profession, but being a part of the Recovery Academy has helped me on the road to recovery.

The Academy was developed following the Department of Health's 2011 No Health without Mental Health strategy, one outcome of which focused on enabling people to gain a greater ability to manage their own lives. My first encounter with the Academy was through Claire, a trust lead, who explained that the project works to recruit relevant 'experts by experience'. She described that it was a college of sorts, where people with lived experience, like me, co-produce and co-facilitate courses alongside experienced clinicians to educate the public and members of NHS staff about living with mental health problems -and we would be paid for doing so. Wow I thought! I could use what I’d gone through for some good? Yes! I want that! That is when I committed to the great work we do at Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

Since day one I have felt valued and supported by my colleagues. My role has filled me with confidence and more importantly, it has given me the opportunity to help so many other people who attend our training courses. There have been times when I have been unwell with my OCD and my many amazing colleagues have supported me through those times. But who hasn’t needed that support?

My role with the Recovery Academy expanded as time went on, I tutored student cognitive behavioural therapists, and was even supported to volunteer as an occupational therapist within one of our early intervention teams. In both these roles I was made to feel like I was a crucial part of the team. From attending master classes on OCD by world leaders in research, to funding me to train as a personal trainer and help set up an exercise group, the NHS has invested in and believed in me throughout.

There are many benefits to ensuring wide and open recruitment across your local community. Employing people who have experienced mental health issues and learning from their lived experience can improve patient care. This is only one of many examples that show how ensuring a wide and open recruitment across your local community can benefit your organisation and importantly, support and strengthen your workforce supply.

The Recovery Academy aims to continue contributing to trusts’ wider plans following the Five Year Forward View recommendation to foster better relationships between patients, communities and care, as well as energise community volunteering and encourage new roles for volunteers.

Find out more about how you can recruit from your community on our dedicated web section

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