"Learning is my Prescription": Adult Education and Mental Health Recovery
Rooney, Marie (2010) "Learning is my Prescription": Adult Education and Mental Health Recovery. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.
Mental health recovery is a process of gaining in autonomy and of moving towards social inclusion rather than marginalisation, towards an agentic role rather than that of ‘patient’. Recovery involves an individual and internal journey, but also requires the existence of external triggers and opportunities. The provision of opportunities to participate in education can be a crucial factor in recovery for many people with mental health difficulties and is an important equality issue. This is an emancipatory study grounded in a participatory and constructivist approach. It discusses the history and landscape of education provision for mental health service users and in particular explores the experience of learners with mental health problems in adult and further education through individual semi-structured interviews. Focus groups of mental health service users, discussions and interviews with education and mental health service staff and visits to sites of inclusive practice provide a context for findings and recommendations. The experience of participants was found to attest to the potential of education in promotion of recovery and in counteracting marginalisation. However, while participants in full-time education programmes were found in general to have positive experiences, good practice by education staff was ad hoc and dependent on effective individuals rather than on operationalised policy. Meanwhile, provision of part-time education for mental health service users remains mostly in the traditional model of classes in mental health service settings, perpetuating segregation and ‘othering’ of people with mental health difficulties. Recommendations include development of policies which promote inclusive practice, supported by staff professional development. Partnership with mental health services is also recommended in order to develop opportunities for mental health service users to participate in adult education in mainstream settings, providing bridges to recovery and social inclusion.
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