“I believe this is the way forward and I expect that we’ll see many more facilities of this nature in the future.”
That was the hopeful message from Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Helen McEntee, as she officially opened REGARI Recovery College in Roscommon town last Thursday.
The recovery college is located in the Lodge building beside Roscommon University Hospital and is just the second of its type in Ireland. The other recovery clinic is also located in Connacht, in Co. Mayo. There are also plans to open similar clinics in Cavan/Monaghan, Carlow/Kilkenny/South Tipperary and the Midwest.
REGARI stands for Roscommon and East Galway Advancing Recovery in Ireland, and the project has proven to be a huge success following its inception in 2013.
At the college, people with experience of or an interest in mental health issues can take part in education modules. These modules are designed to develop a deeper understanding of mental health issues and techniques to cope and deal with them.
The modules take place in a group setting where individuals share experiences and work in conjunction with mental health professionals. Minister McEntee praised REGARI for allowing those who have had experiences of the issues to assist in treatment and recovery.
“REGARI shows that people can get better with the help of mental health experts, and also with the help of people who have gone through it (mental health issues) previously. I think that’s what makes it special. “Of course it’s not always going to be possible for everybody to completely remove medication from their lives. However, at a facility like this we can work out what patients and families want.”
REGARI peer educator, Ailish Connaughton, addressed the audience: “This is a peer-led project in collaboration with the HSE, where experts by experience can work with experts by profession so that they can recover and come away with the hope, empowerment and resilience that they need to control their issues.”
Ms. Connaughton described the process of establishing REGARI as a “godsend” to her before detailing the ten modules which will form the autumn/winter programme this year. They include subjects such ‘Let’s Talk Mental Health’ and ‘Understanding Medication’, while mudules in self-awareness and resilience are also included.
It is hoped that REGARI will build on the success of the six taster sessions which saw a total of 63 students take part.