ARCHES Recovery College Website launch in the dlr LexIcon, Dun Laoghaire

Over 100 people attended the ARCHES Recovery College website launch in the dlr LexIcon, Dun Laoghaire, on Friday 22nd March 2024.

ARCHES Recovery College gives people a choice to engage in a broad range of self-directed, transformative learning opportunities to develop knowledge, skills and abilities; self-manage mental health; improve quality of life; and ultimately flourish. The service uses Adult Education principles to help people share knowledge about different coping strategies, develop ways of making sense of psychological distress, and experience belonging, meaning in life, and empowerment.

In the Welcome Address, Aisling Heffernan (Chief Officer, HSE Community Healthcare East) stated:

“ARCHES has coproduced a comprehensive Recovery Education programme that holistically considers the needs of service users, their family members, supporters, and mental health professionals. This is focused on helping people with rumination, enhancing resilience, navigating identity challenges, understanding trauma informed care, using creativity to help people to make sense of experiences, eating healthily, and practicing mindfulness (to name a few).”

When introducing the website and explaining its functionality, Dr Donal O’Keeffe (HSE Community Healthcare East Recovery Coordinator and Manager of ARCHES Recovery College) stated:

Our new website will be a powerful resource for all of us and help get information about available supports out to people in need. We hope it will support the community for many years to come… Employing people with Lived Experience directly challenges psychiatric stigma and is a mechanism for mental health service reform. Recovery means being treated like others and being recognised for your value and societal contribution.”

In her Keynote talk, Ann Sheridan (Emeritus Professor) reflected on the history of psychiatric care in Ireland and the social movement behind the championing of Lived Experience. The HSE National Counselling Service also gave a talk on how they promote mental health recovery, particularly in the context of the experience of trauma.

The afternoon ended with a powerful Panel Discussion on the value of Lived Experience employment for the recovery of the employee, for other people in recovery, and for culture change and service improvement. 

Engagement and Recovery Summer Party

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.