Recovery College: life-changing hub helping Lancashire with everything from recruitment to mental health

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Making a big change in life often requires a helping hand. On that front, few places have been quite as impactful as Preston’s Recovery College, which is a one-stop shop for those looking to upskill themselves, address health issues, or just make friends.

Having first opened its doors in April last year, the Recovery College, which is based next to the Minerva Centre at Deepdale, celebrated its first birthday recently, with countless members of the community, local partners, service users, and staff gathering to make the event.

Entirely community-developed, the Recovery College space promotes health and wellbeing through free courses, workshops, and social opportunities. Run by Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust (LSCft) with support from a handful of other North West-based organisations, it has supported hundreds of people since coming into being.

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Now offering over 50 different courses in everything from recruitment and selection training to mental health awareness, walk and talk sessions in nearby Moor Park, understanding anxiety, and digital skills, the Recovery College will also shortly be launching courses in Urdu for people from south Asian communities where English may not be their first language.

The NHS Recovery College's Grow Your Own ProjectThe NHS Recovery College's Grow Your Own Project
The NHS Recovery College's Grow Your Own Project

“It’s great to be here today and to be able to celebrate with all the people who have made the Recovery College a success,” says Suzie Smith, Service Development Manager. “Co-production is at the centre of what we do, and we’re really proud that our curriculum has been developed by and continues to be improved by the people who use and need it.

“Feedback is so important and we have to know where we have gaps so that we can fill them, to make sure we’re always providing the best, most effective support,” Suzie adds. “We have a real mix of people who come and visit, and it’s especially pleasing when we get generations of families coming together.”

Providing a range of services from mental health care to physical health and well-being services across the North West, the Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust was established in 2002 and employs approximately 7,000 staff who provide care from more than 200 sites, including the Recovery Centre itself.

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With the Recovery College team having invested a lot of time into talking to local residents about their needs, the courses on offer are co-designed by people with lived experience and professionals. The result is a treasure trove of accessible and fun health and wellbeing opportunities specifically tailored to the local population, with all groups open to anyone over the age of 16.

NHS Recovery College celebration cakeNHS Recovery College celebration cake
NHS Recovery College celebration cake

One of the most popular courses is a session on ADHD, which is run by a volunteer who shares her lived experience of getting a diagnosis in adulthood and breaking the taboo to encourage others who feel they might have ADHD to seek support. A wellbeing session with animals has also been suggested.

“We think our courses are great and we’d encourage everyone to try them,” says Suzie. “But even just coming down to have a coffee and a catch up is so important for wellbeing and the prevention of poor mental health, given the isolated lives we can often lead.”

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