“From my experience, learning helps mental health and having a purpose really helped my mental health”
The Recovery College built my confidence, gave me structure in my week, and helped me get out there again and have something to do. That’s really important when suffering from depression.
My sense of self came back over time. It didn’t matter what courses I did, it was that I did them.
Once I had a real breakthrough moment in a conversation with another student. I had the realisation that I can’t get back to my old life and that I don’t necessarily want to. The future is about building a new life.
Learning in a group environment is really important. Sometimes you learn as much from the students as the teacher.
It’s a safe environment and you know people are in a similar situation with similar worries and anxieties. Knowing that gives you a sense of comfort which makes you more willing and open to learn.
I was diagnosed with depression about seven years ago. My parents did some research and found MIND who at the time were involved with the pilot scheme of the Recovery College.
My first class was Managing Depression. I was so scared that I took my dad with me for the very first class! It was good and I went back and ended up doing quite a few courses.
I felt really hopeful and my depression improved but when the pilot scheme ended there was nothing to replace it. I fell into a depression and became agoraphobic because the courses had filled my life and now I had no purpose.
When Southdown started the new Recovery College I was hesitant to go back but my friend who was a Peer Trainer encouraged me to go because it felt more secure with the funding.
I started doing a couple of courses in the term and slowly built my confidence and my identity back up. The course on confidence building was really good and really helped.
Last year I was invited to the Recovery College’s Move-On Day which was amazing. That Move-On Day was one of the most important days on my journey.
At this event lots of local organisations had their own stalls and were there to help students look at what volunteering, hobby, and work opportunities are out there.
It helped seeing what was available all in one place. I didn’t have to go out and research lots of places, or take lots of time to send and receive emails. The organisations also knew I had come from the Recovery College so I didn’t have to have that conversation.
One of the stalls there was the Socially Active Project run through the Friends Centre and the WEA. They help people to volunteer and train so they can get back into work or education.
I talked to them about my idea of wanting to teach maths to adults and they told me what they could do to help.
They helped me arrange volunteering in adult maths classes at Friends Centre and a place on a course at Portslade Adult Education Centre learning mentoring skills.
After that course, they helped me go to the Brighton MET to study for an Award in Educational Training which is like an introduction to teaching to see if it was definitely what I wanted to do. I really enjoyed that.
I then started volunteering as a teaching assistant in adult maths classes at Portslade Adult Education Centre and I decided this was what I wanted to do.
So I applied for the PGCE at Brighton University and was accepted! I will specialise in maths in further education on my placement.
I’ve gone from not being able to go into a class without my dad to starting to teach one!
In my personal statement for uni I mentioned how my depression influenced my decision to go into teaching. From my experience, learning helps mental health and having a purpose really helped my mental health.
I want to give back – I think being a maths teacher is where I would be most useful. I’ve always enjoyed maths and I enjoy demystifying it. Helping people overcome a block when it comes to maths is really rewarding.
I like maths because it’s logical. If you do one step, it leads to another step which leads to another step. I also like how there is a definite answer but that there’s more than one way to do something. It’s important that you don’t teach every student the same way of doing something – you see what suits them.
I think my experience will help me have an awareness and more empathy when dealing with students who might be experiencing something similar.
It did take time, a good couple of years, for me to build up to where I am now. But if I have a bad day now, I know it won’t last. Knowing that means I get over it quicker.
My story goes to show that one thing leads to another which leads to another. That there is stuff out there. I would say to people who might be in a similar position, to take advantage of what is out there because it will help.
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. The College provides a wide range of courses which are co-produced and co-delivered by people with lived experience of mental health challenges and are delivered in community and educational venues across Brighton and Hove.