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Education at the heart of important boost to mental health services

Swansea University is playing a key role in a new initiative aimed at using the power of education to improve mental health services in the city.

It is involved in a partnership to launch a Recovery College in Swansea offering a wide range of new learning opportunities for people with mental illnesses and their families.

Based at Community Recovery Education and Skills Training (CREST) in Cwmbwrla, the college aims to build up participants’ self-esteem and confidence at the same time as their skills.

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Mark Jones, academic lead for the University’s Department of Adult Continuing Education (DACE), explained that people experiencing mental health can often be excluded from mainstream opportunities such as employment, education and training. This, in turn can lead to loneliness and worsening mental health and wellbeing.

He said: “Day centres and day opportunities have helped reduce some of these difficulties but are not enough to fully support these on their own.”

Recovery colleges, which are increasingly being developed across the UK, are learning establishments which offer the possibility of change and transformation for people who want to rebuild their lives.

The aim of the new college is to support individuals to live the life they want to lead and for them to become experts in their own self-care.

Manager of CREST Steve Williams, who opened the launch event, said: “This recovery college will provide the opportunity to transform people’s lives in a positive and empowering way working with educators in partnership.”

The University has collaborated on the project with Gower College Swansea and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David to offer further education engagement and learning opportunities designed to help not only with personal goals but also to act as a potential step to further education, higher education or employment.

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DACE will look to develop a reading group, offer taster lectures and experiences of higher education, as well as a short module experience that meets the needs of students within the recovery college.

Mark Jones added: “We want to use an educational approach to improve health and to complement support already offered by Swansea Council and Swansea Bay University Health Board.”

To mark the college’s development, stakeholders attended a special launch event at Taliesin Arts Centre at the University’s Singleton campus.

Endorsing the project, Lord Mayor of Swansea David Phillips said:  “This will create an environment where people who have experienced mental health issues can feel safe, welcomed, accepted and able to reach their full potential – it is a much-needed and excellent project for Swansea.”

Nick Andrews, of the Wales School for Social Care Research based at the University, described the development of the college as being in the true spirit of education as defined by Brazilian educator Paulo Freire – “the primary aim of which is to create a world in which it is easier to love”.

Swansea University Pro-Vice-Chancellor Martin Stringer added that the University was proud to be involved in such an exciting and innovative project: “This is an important development for supporting those people experiencing mental health and removing the barriers to education.”

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