If I hadn’t attended the Recovery College, I would still be homeless. I can look at myself in the mirror now, whereas before I just saw darkness.

“I wanted to give back everything I was given”

I’ve been a Buddy at the Recovery College since the beginning of 2018.

I wanted to give back everything I was given because I’ve received support from Southdown for five years now.

Because I was in a much better place, I thought it would be nice to help other people who are struggling.

A Buddy is there for students at the Recovery College who need extra support getting from their home to the classroom. We can phone them and escort them to college and sit with them in the first few lessons until they no longer need that. If a student has an anxious episode, then we’ll sit with them outside the classroom and support them too.

As well as Buddies for individual students, the college also has Classroom Buddies who support members of a class.

If the Buddy programme existed when I first came to the Recovery College, I’d have wanted one every day to help me get to the courses!

To be a Buddy, you have to be DBS checked and complete training. Over the space of a year, we covered five courses, such as Suicide Awareness and Building Confidence.

Training was very useful as far as I’m concerned. It helps you to cope with lots of stuff and gives you the confidence to deal with certain things. The courses have been really helpful for me to understand how to talk to people and help them if they are going through major challenges.

Being a Buddy has taught me about boundaries and the different challenges people have. It’s also given me the skills to communicate with people.

The benefit of being a Buddy at the college is getting the pleasure of watching someone cope by themselves and be independent. You can see their progress.

I’ve been a student at the Recovery College for about four years. Being at the college has taught me to be aware of my own boundaries so I don’t absorb everyone’s energy. I still need to improve on that!

It’s helped me mature a bit when dealing with people – given me more insight. Now I can take a step back and observe people before saying or doing anything. The college has helped me speak to people and not take things to heart.

The courses gave me the confidence to go out there and face the world. Being part of the Recovery College has helped me deal with being in the public eye. I feel a lot more confident being seen. When I picked up the bass guitar, I realised people would see me.

Being a Buddy is like a stepping stone to the next stage in a career or interests. I’d like to work for myself by being a musician – as a teacher and as a studio musician. That’s where I want to be.

It feels excellent to commit to something. It’s a challenge to be better and to learn something. I’m learning I can never be The Best, but I can try to be somebody. I can be the best that I can be.

I’ve always been a creative person, but it got lost along the way. Now I’m in a band playing bass guitar and I’ve started busking. I’ve joined a choir as well. It’s a lot of fun! I’m experimenting with my voice. I’ve even started to sing on buses now! I’m just starting a course outside of the college on filmmaking and photography too.

Creativity has helped me express myself more. I’m hungry now. I’m not afraid to take a risk anymore. Music has done that.

I would say to someone interested in coming to the Recovery College – what have you got to lose? There’s no harm in trying something. Give it a chance. I’m giving myself a chance. If someone’s offering you something, give it a go. Don’t be afraid.

If I hadn’t attended the Recovery College, I would still be homeless. I can look at myself in the mirror now, whereas before I just saw darkness.

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.