A COLLEGE that both helps its students manage their mental health illnesses and earn credits for further education has been launched in Portsmouth.
The Solent Recovery College is one of 10 institutions in the UK which looks to help people with long-term mental health problems either recover from, or live with, their illnesses.
But it is the first of its kind to be run by an NHS trust in association with a college.
Highbury College’s city campus off Winston Churchill Avenue will be the base for the college, which is being run jointly by Solent NHS Trust, Portsmouth City Council, and the Richmond Fellowship.
The launch yesterday saw dozens for potential students meet organisers with a view to take part.
Tori King, occupational therapy and recovery lead at the Solent NHS Trust, was among those welcoming prospective students.
She said: ‘This service is for someone who is a sufferer, or a carer, or a supporter, or someone who is working for one of our partner organisations.’
The courses aim to give people with mental health problems help in dealing with their illnesses and practical tips from people who have been through similar issues themselves.
‘That shared expertise makes the college quite unique,’ said Tori.
‘There are 10 colleges like this in the UK, and it was a Department of Health mandate that they be set up.
‘But we’re the first one to partner with a further education institution.
‘It’s exciting, because it means the people who come to us will get learning credits, which they will be able to put towards employment, education or training, as well as at the same time learning how to cope with their recovery.
‘It will be a real help to the whole community.’
The college has been modelled on a similar scheme called the Dorset Wellbeing and Recovery Centre.
Tori said it had started with 65 students in its first year, and then 650 in its second.
‘There is clearly a need for this, and in the future we’ll look at opening the college out to primary care people, which is the less severe cases.
‘One in four people experience mental health conditions.’
She added: ‘At the moment we’re targeting the most severe but in the future we would like big employers to access our services to help their staff be more aware.’