On Monday 24 July, ARCHES Recovery College hosted a Summer Party in celebration of the HSE Office of Mental Health Engagement and Recovery’s 10th birthday. The theme for the day was Belonging. It was a jam-packed, sold-out event. Festivities began with lunch followed by an opportunity to contribute to an interactive mandala tree mural. The inspirational High Hopes Choir (made up of people affected by homelessness and the people that support them) kicked off the celebration. The choir is a living example of hope, navigating life challenges, adversity, and structural inequality to find a path to not just recovery but flourishing. The energy of the performance was infectious and inspired us all.
This was a hard act to follow, but Andrea Koenigstorfer (Area Lead for Mental Health Engagement) and Dr. Donal O’Keeffe (Recovery Coordinator) did their best. They presented on “The past, present, and future of Recovery and Engagement in Community Healthcare East” with the help of ARCHES Recovery College volunteers Lisa Richardson and Isabelle Gauthier (who spoke eloquently of the role of the Recovery College in their own recovery journeys). Joy Paglinawan (Clinical Nurse Manager 2) and Linda McCarthy (Day Centre attendee) then communicated the value of the day centre programme and described the beautiful work of Irish poet and philosopher John O’Donoghue (who has written extensively on the importance of belonging for the human soul). We were then treated to a powerful talk from Dr. Calvin Swords (Assistant Professor in Social Work and a mental health researcher at Maynooth University) on how society needs to take responsibility to provide the resources people need to recover.
After a short tea and coffee break, Jennifer O’Sullivan (ex-ARCHES Recovery Education Facilitator and now Social Prescribing Link Worker with Bray Area Partnership) gave a fascinating talk on the role of Social Prescribing in mental health recovery and how this vital service can be accessed. Then Rachael Hughes, Patricia Mc Keever, and Anthony O’Reardon from Shine, presented on how their work focuses on advocacy, accurate and responsible media coverage of mental health in the media, reducing mental health stigma, and individual and group support and education. The day concluded with Sushil Teji (HSE Strategic Development Lead for Mental Health Engagement) completing the challenging task of summing up the day; its key messages of optimism, connectedness, and empowerment; and moderating an in-depth question and answers session. We are mindful that many people missed out on a ticket to the event (due to a cap on numbers because of the size of our building). We will endeavour to programme events in larger venues to try to prevent people from being disappointing in the future.