Carers and the importance of Recovery Colleges

mat

Welcome to another one of my carers blog posts. My name is Matthew Mckenzie and I am a carer for someone suffering mental health difficulties. I feel its important for carers to speak out more, so that way we won’t risk being alienated, isolated and disregarded. We carers and families give so much to society, but as yet we still plod along trying to cope with caring.

One thing I noticed about being a carer for so many years is the problem of being thrown into providing care without any idea what I am doing. I questioned myself on the following over the years.

– Am I providing care correctly?
– Wondering if I am sure if things go downhill it was partly my fault
– What is my caree thinking about how I am trying to support them?
– How am I looking after my own care needs?
– What support should I be getting?
– What happens if I get stressed in trying to talk to my caree?
– How should I react if my caree gets upset with me?

I feel that if you are a carer reading this, then all these questions must have come across your mind at some point in your journey. I am not stating that caring is the toughest job in the world, but at times a carer can be out on a limb, a carer can sometimes end up relying on guess work. This is not often the best situation to be in and I feel more support should be offered to carers in understanding their role and providing adequate care without neglecting themselves.

Well over the years I have learnt quite a few things from carers support groups that I have attended in the past and that I still do attend, one of the things I had learnt at these groups were courses that can help carers.

Some of the information about courses carers can attend came from the group leader, sometimes other carers passed on such information via word of mouth. Eventually I plucked up the courage and decided to enroll on a day course on understanding mental health from a carers perspective. I never looked back and the course had helped me immensely.

Fast forward to 3 years in the present and I found myself attending more courses regarding carers of those suffering mental health issues or those with lived experiences. These courses ranged from a couple of hours to evening classes spanning 2 months. Maybe one day I ll blog about how I found how helpful those courses were.

Eventually I found out about recovery colleges, at first I thought such colleges were only for those suffering mental health problems. I checked out the course list from the “Central and North West London” recovery college site and found out some of the courses were useful for carers, but the problem was that I was not from that area, so I felt a little disheartened, however if you do use Central and North West London services then please check out their recovery college site at http://www.cnwl.nhs.uk/recovery-college/

So then since I am over in South London, what could I do to educate myself and help in my own recovery as a carer? Eventually I found out from “South London and Maudsley” that they have their own recovery college. It was not long before I was browsing through their prospectus which can be found here http://www.slamrecoverycollege.co.uk/courses.html

SLaM Recovery logo

I eventually found several courses that was interesting for my field, but one course stood out more for me than the other courses off that prospectus. This course was called “Carers Communicating for Change”. The workshop states the following.

“This workshop focuses on the importance of communication within the caring role.

Sharing experiences and increased knowledge of mental health issues can help to reduce anxiety for both the carer and person experiencing mental health difficulties.”

Without a moments notice, I booked myself for this course and you know what was even better? This course was free. I could not believe it! Although quite a few courses are free for carers and some of them might not be free, but its usually good to start with the courses that are free; mainly because I feel carers struggle with finances almost every day.

On the 14th of July 2014, I managed to attend the course, although I arrived a little late due to a train cancellation. The course was held over at the Maudsley Learning Centre, which is a lovely building centered on health and wellbeing events, courses, seminars and community get togethers. You can check out the Maudsley Learning site here http://www.maudsleylearning.com/

Maudsley Learning Centre

Continuing about my experiences on the course, I arrived to hear the course leader talking about how carers need to watch out for the pitfalls when they are communicating with others, especially with who their care for that being the “caree”. I then thought to myself “Hey! this sounds right up my street”, and I began to sat down and listen.

The course co-lecturer was showing slides of different animals off the screen. Each animal resembled different characteristics of communicative behavior.

I remember some of them animals shown as :-

Ostrich
Rhinoceros
Kangeroo
Dolphin

I am sure there were a few more animals, but those are the ones that stuck in my mind, but why animals? Well for a start we can easily recognize animal behavior and if I go through those I have mentioned, you can slightly understand how useful the examples were

Ostrich – Tends to bury themselves in the sand ignoring caring issues
Rhinoceros – Does not negotiate and always takes “charge” with directing questions, causes others to fear them.
Kangaroo – Protects the caree and does not allow self recovery or motivation
Dolphin – The perfect balance, supportive and understanding.

I will not go on too much about the course because I might end up spoiling it for others who may attend the course some day, however one of the key benefits of this course is that it allowed carers to speak about their experiences. The good point of this is that I learnt from other carers experiences and there were several times where I spoke about my own caring experiences. This is where I felt that I could relate to other carers, where I do not feel isolated every so often in the community or in society.

Another thing I liked about the course where the exercises where we could experience the difference between directed questions and open questions. I still need to work on how to ask open questions, but they are very important in communication skills. I felt the 2 hour course was a great asset for my caring role and hope they continue to run such a course for the next semester.

Recovery colleges seem to be starting up around many mental health trusts, so if you are a service user, carer or even staff member, it is worth checking out such colleges. My reasons for attending these colleges are :-

– They can aide in recovery as a tool
– You can learn about the course and also learn about yourself
– They are a great networking opportunity
– They are usually free
– Courses are geared to your situation

I am sure there are a lot more things I have missed out off this list, but you get the picture. I hope to attend more courses soon even if they are not held at recovery colleges, perhaps I ll feedback on my blog how those courses turned out.

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