Long fight ahead to defeat mental health stigma - new ‘recovery college’ manager


Breanne Cook. Picture: NORFOLK AND SUFFOLK FOUNDATION TRUST (NSFT) - Credit: Archant

Breanne Cook has taken over as manager of the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust’s (NSFT) Recovery College, which runs courses on topics such as wellbeing and life after illness to help support patients.

The courses are designed to give groups of up to 12 patients at a time information they can use in real life on how they can recover from a period of psychological illness.

They are also designed to break down some of the stigma surrounding illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder, by showing participants there are others going through the same experiences.

But Ms Cook while some tutors and participants and Recovery College courses report greater acceptance of mental illness in the community at large, others believe the stigma has only increased.

The former social worker believes that shows: “There is still a long way to go in terms of he stigma within the community and the media.

“However the Recovery College supports and challenges that by recognising that people’s recovery journeys are unique and their experiences are unique.

“The mental health challenges they face are not about something that’s wrong with them, it’s about something that has happened to them.

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“You really have to treat people as individuals.”

Mrs Cook takes on the role after being the Recovery College’s East Suffolk co-ordinator for the past 10 months.

ran four courses in her previous job in East Suffolk, which were Wellness Planning, Creating an Individual Learning Plan, Building on Strengths and Abilities, and What is Recovery?

In her new role, she hopes to help introduce additional courses and help make sure the college is sustainable so that even more people can benefit from the help it provides.

“I am really excited about my new role, as I really believe in the work of the Recovery College,” said Mrs Cook.

She said the most beneficial thing about the courses is that: “People learn from each other.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, there’s always someone you can learn from.

“By coming here you really understand that your experiences are completely normal, human experiences.”

Mrs Cook added: “I applied for the job as I wanted to be in a position to influence the growth of the college and make sure it is sustainable so that even more people can access the help it provides.”

“One of the best parts of the job is running courses – you really get to connect with people and see the benefits of the college first-hand.

“Watching people grow, learn and use peer discussion and experience to influence their own recovery journey makes it all so worthwhile.

“The Recovery College is a really valuable asset and offers us the chance to support people in the community and to promote personal recovery principles. It gives people control over their own recovery journey, which is really important.”