"The Recovery College creates community"

Recovery College Buddy

For a long time I was separated from people and the world. Being a Buddy has given me a purpose - to give, share, and express. 

The Recovery College creates community. It brings out the idea we all have a part to play.

When I walked into the College there was an acceptance and invitation to be part of it. It allows us to experience our true selves, but we have to participate. I think the healing path is about participating and getting involved.

I’m a Buddy at the Recovery College. A Buddy is a reassuring presence. I’m like a bridge between the student, the Peer Trainers, and the group. 

My responsibility is to help a student arrive at their class and reassure them that even though they’re initially in a room full of strangers, they have a friend there. 

I help draw a student’s attention to the moment and to small details, so it doesn’t become overwhelming. A Buddy can help put a student’s anxieties to the side so that they can trust in the process. The idea is for me to step back as much as I can, but for them to know I’m there if they need support.

When someone new arrives at the College, they’ve got a chance to give and share in a group. There are a lot of tea breaks, giving students an opportunity to share, communicate with each other, and meet like-minded people. 

Peer Trainers are allowed to share their life experiences and this has encouraged me to share mine. I’ve been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Being a student at the Recovery College gave me the tools to go out into the wider community and expand. 

I was a student at the College for a year and it enabled me to learn how workshops worked, how Peer Trainers worked, and how groups related to one another.

I realised that I was naturally supporting others in courses - I’m the eldest from a large family so I’ve always created games and entertainment and supported people. I could see the path – that being a Buddy would be good.

When I arrived at the Recovery College as a student, I was put off by the forms and rules – it felt like school. I was defensive and judgemental and impatient! But as the day unfolded and I started talking to people, I thought, “This is so nice and caring.” I’d not experienced that before in an establishment. I was getting the idea of what the College is about.

I reassure my students that I’ve been where they’ve been. All someone needs to take is that first step. As a Buddy supporting a student, it’s important to keep it simple and allow space and a person’s experience to come through.

I reassure them not to hurry, that it will be fun, and that the Peer Trainers will be lovely. It’s about moving away from taking it too seriously and to seeing it as a gift and a fun day out. I often tell people they’ll be a different person at the end of the day and they are.

By the second week of the Walking for Recovery course, I found that the students were opening up, talking to each other, feeling less anxious and uncomfortable, and enjoying themselves. We learnt to be in the moment and to be mindful - something they might not ever have experienced before. It was like magic.

I choose courses and workshops that I know I can be passionate about. I’m interested in anything that emphasises creativity, like art, drama, chanting and drumming. I like creativity because it can help you go into the zone, to connect with the oneness and the universe.

You can walk into a workshop with a block but because of the kindness of the Peer Trainers and the Buddies, and the ability to express and be creative in the classroom, you can get through that block.

Creativity helps me open up to other possibilities. I’m a puppeteer. They call me ‘The Puppet Master’! Puppet shows have acted as a bridge from me to others.  The more I’ve been absorbed in creativity, the more the universe has supported me.

I want students to realise that when they get involved in whichever group they’re drawn to, it will open up more opportunities. It’s important to recognise that if a course has been very rewarding, it can be like that all the time.

I’ve received a lot of care and support in the past and now it’s time for me to give. I believe that the more you give, the more you receive.

For a long time I was separated from people and the world. Being a Buddy has given me a purpose - to give, share, and express. My ambition is to become more involved with the College and see what unfolds.

 

Delivered as a partnership with the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, the Brighton and Hove Recovery College uses education in a supportive learning environment to help people with mental health challenges become experts in their own self-care and recovery. Buddies meet up and help those students who need support attending and engaging with the college. This might involve accompanying them on a journey or meeting them outside a venue or supporting them in the classroom.