I've been a peer trainer at the Solent Recovery College (SRC) since January 2020. Like a lot of charities and organisations, the SRC has had to adapt to the new environment we find ourselves in, in order to continue to offer support and a services to those who need it.
The SRC provides people with the opportunity to learn about recovery through courses and short sessions taught in an educational environment; I first attended in January 2019 and it had a huge impact on my recovery from a long history of mental illness.
A year later I began to work for them as a peer trainer, co-teaching classes to students, and had only taught a few classes had to be cancelled due to the Coronavirus. Shortly after, I was also put on furlough in my other job. Suddenly, I found the normal routine and structure of my life disrupted, but I am thankful that I can use the skills and knowledge gained from the SRC to manage my mental health and wellbeing during such uncertain times.
Many peoples' mental health will be suffering as a result of the restrictions put in place, and the need for mental health services to continue is greater than ever. When I was asked if I would like to be involved in delivering online SRC classes I was eager to join; it was a great idea and would mean that we could continue to help our students. However, this is the first time the SRC have offered classes online, and I was apprehensive with it also being a totally new experience to me.
We use Zoom to hold the digital classes and we've had training how to use the platform as teachers, as well as a class to help our students understand and become familiar with the system. The courses have also been slightly shortened and adapted to meet the challenges faced when teaching in a virtual setting. Some of the classes that we have run since April include: "what is recovery?" "understanding and developing Mindfulness," "understanding anxiety" and "understanding depression." The classes have proved very popular (with up to 15 students attending), the feedback has been positive and I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.
I've been mainly involved with the mindfulness four-week course, and the "understanding depression" class. As usual, the content is produced and taught equally by someone who has experience working in adult mental health and an individual who has lived experience with mental illness. The students learn about mental health and gain practical skills which can benefit their recovery or someone else's recovery. I have found the online interaction and communication with the students during lessons great; it's a relaxed atmosphere where they can have their camera on or off as they please. The mindfulness classes in particular have been very well attended, and the students have participated in different live exercises, had discussions in groups and contributed using the chat feature.
During such an unprecedented time, it is comforting to know that we can all come together and continue some kind of normality. The SRC continue to offer an environment in which everyone can learn and share their experiences. It looks likely that the SRC will continue online for most, if not all of 2020. From my involvement in these early stages, I am sure that it will continue to prosper, with the trainers and the students settling into (what will be for at least a while) the new normal.