The Recovery College opened its doors to the community of Camden & Islington in September 2014, it is part of Camden & Islington NHS Foundation Trust, located next to the St Pancras Hospital. We started out with a pilot of just eight unique courses, now we co-deliver 33 courses which have been co-developed by Trust staff, Recovery College tutors and other partnership organisations.
The courses are delivered in venues that are Trust and Partnership buildings and over the last three years we have had over 1,500 unique students on our courses and the number is still growing! The aim of joint working of the Clinical Commissioning Group and Camden & Islington NHS Foundation Trust was to create a hub of knowledge where people can share their stories and work to break stigma that surrounds mental health.
The student experience is very much the base of what we do at The Recovery College. It is the Individual stories of recovery journeys which people tell that hold the key to one’s recovery. The stories people tell are not always linear, direct or outcomes driven, but are a catalyst for change. In my experience people who are labelled with a diagnosis often feel fixed and limited by this, so concepts of the self as fluid can be particularly helpful and liberating which is why I chose to present the idea of fluidity of self as a rather interesting tool for change, connection and reflection on self.
If we look at mental health through a social constructive lens rather than a fixed medicalised construct of symptoms and diagnosis we can introduce a narrative approach to describe a self made up of stories, events and experiences; a self that is not rigid but transient; a self that is fluid. My idea of fluidity of self suggests that self is a constant construct of our experiences and is relational. Through connections with ourselves, others, nature and all that is external as well as internal we experience our identity as something that exists in every relationship. By opening ourselves to fluidity we gain new experiences; moment by moment; ever changing and flowing. Thus the fluidity becomes our nature and a toll to change ourselves and move more freely in a space around us.
As Anderson explains: “Rather than the self being fixed, the self is a self-in-action, always fluid, always being created and re-created in relationships with others”
I try to apply as much of this freedom of understanding of self to our work in the Recovery College where we look to break stigma and promote the story of the individual so the self can flourish. This however falls under a greater umbrella for the intention of Recovery College which looks at social inclusion and a way of connection between general public, trust staff and other professionals.
Recently, through a partnership working with Mind in Camden I was able to present our organisations ethos’s of co-production, peer support and recovery at the 9th International Hearing Voices Congress in Boston; USA. In particular it was an opportunity to connect and tell my own story of fluidity of self which came from my journey of being a refugee and having different labels and national identities interlaced alongside my other views of myself. The workshop materials were co-produced by a voice hearer and me to inspire others to share their stories and through recognising the fluidity of the different identities they inhabit, somehow free themselves from the limiting perspectives of one label, diagnosis or experience. The workshop was well received and has inspired me to continue to develop these materials to support others in reclaiming their experiences:
Dolly Sen a voice hearer, an activist and researcher: ‘This workshop was helpful to look at directions where the self can flourish and journeys are meaningful.
Jim Probert, PhD; Psychologist; University of Florida: ‘The workshop offered a helpful structure and engaging personal narratives while creating space for participants to join a freeing experiential journey.
Ksenija Kadic is Senior Tutor and Deputy Manager at The Recovery College at Knowledge Quarter partner Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust.