ARIES peer educator moves audience with emotional account of mental illness

mental illness
Daniel Taylor, Education and Development Officer ARIES Project, Aoife Boland, Peer Educator Mid West ARIES Project, Dr. Jennifer McMahon, Chairperson of Limerick Mental Health Week, Mark Sparling, Head of Service for Mental Health in HSE Mid West and John McElhinney Area Developmen Officer with Mental Health Ireland. Picture by Michelle Hogan.

A peer educator from Mid West Advancing Recovery in Ireland Education Service (ARIES) gave an emotionally moving account of her experience with mental illness on Thursday afternoon.

Aoife Boland’s speech came as she was a guest speaker of Dr. Jennifer McMahon’s public talk held at the Millstream Building, University of Limerick as part of Limerick Mental Health Week 2016.

The main topic of the talk was “Recovery Colleges: A Blueprint for Change in Mental Health Services.”

Recovery Colleges are developed by the HSE Mid West Mental Health Services in conjunction with ARIES to promote education as a tool in mental health recovery.

Chairperson of Limerick Mental Health Week, Dr. Jennifer McMahon explained that Recovery Colleges is “a very personal approach to recovery [from mental illness] as opposed to a clinical approach which is often more common in mental health circles. It is a very humanistic approach looking at the person as a whole being and not just focusing on one aspect of the person.”

Education and Development Officer of ARIES project Daniel Taylor explained that the Recovery Colleges workshop at the moment offers five modules to anyone interested in learning about recovery from mental illness: “We organise the workshops, we facilitate them and bring groups of people together, our modules are: ‘What is Recovery’, ‘Advocacy and Empowerment’, ‘Understanding the Mental Health Services’, ‘Diagnosis and Beyond’ and ‘Recovery principles for Students’.”

The courses available including venue, times and dates as well as course materials are continuously updated on the HSE website.

Courses offered by Recovery Colleges are developed in collaboration with the community. The defining feature of Recovery Colleges is the way in which people who have lived experience of mental illness, their supporters and mental health professional’s work together to provide the service.

Aoife Boland is a peer educator with ARIES and her speech moved people to open up about their own experiences with mental health in the questions and answers session at the end of the talk.

Ms. Boland told her personal story of battling with mental illness to highlight how the new Recovery Colleges works “I am equal and I educate.”

According to Ms. Boland, having people who have experienced mental illness help those who are currently going through mental illness is key to the recovery process by showing that there is life after a mental health diagnosis.

Her story resonated with the crowd that had gathered for the talk and some people opened up and thanked Ms. Boland personally for her honesty and passion.

Mid West ARI group is part of Advancing Recovery Ireland and comprises of representatives from HSE mental health service providers, service users, family members and Mid West peer support centres.

In 2014 the Mid West ARI group did research to look at offering courses on recovery in mental health in the region. This research found that people in the Mid West region wanted to see courses available to people who have experienced mental health difficulties, family members, staff and the general public.

Based on the research, Genio, a not-for-profit organisation, agreed to fund a Recovery Education Project for one year in the Mid West. As a pilot project Mid West ARIES will initially be developing up to ten modules that can be delivered across the region. Each part of the process will be evaluated and all participants will be asked to take part in the evaluation.

Read more about Mid West Advancing Recovery in Ireland Education Service here.

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