Articles

Review of The Belfast Recovery College’s ‘Wellness Recovery action Plan’ (WRAP) Course


Hi Guys, My name is Leah Gillott I’m 32 year’s
of age and I live in Belfast in Northern Ireland. I’ve been asked to review one of the courses
I had undertaken through the Belfast Recovery College which is ran by the trust, the Belfast
Trust and is wholly integrated with the community in Belfast. So, you can do a wide range of
courses based around mental health. Ehm. It was a really really good course but I just
want to tell you a wee bit about the a, recovery college first. They’re main principles, they’ve
got 3 key principles ehm; hope, control, and opportunity and that’s what they hope to do
through the courses that they offer in the community. So, these courses are opened to
absolutely everybody doesn’t matter where you come from, what age you are, your competency
level, it doesn’t matter. You’re greeted and treated like everybody else, you get extra
help if you need during classwork and the courses a lot of them are accredited. So, ehm..just a wee bit about my story first,
I was an addict for 8 years I’m now recovered for 11 months. And after a series of overdoses
and…phew you know, it was crazy. After a life of hell pretty much I moved back to Northern
Ireland after living in Scotland for 10 years and now I use the college regularly to maintain
my sobriety. So my sobriety is very very important to me. The recovery college is mental health based
OK so I started using drugs because I had past childhood traumas and things were getting
a bit overwhelming and that’s why I ended up on drugs. But, coming out the other side,
and being clean, me working on my self-development, my self-care, has been extremely important
to my recovery eh so I choose to go ehm to a wide range of the recovery college, Belfast
Recovery college courses which are ALL completely FREE which is a bonus, it’s excellent. It’s
an excellent service, it’s charity based part of the Trust and you know you can get courses
on biopolar, OCD, Pyschological Therapies, Managing stress, you can do meditation courses
but the course I want to talk to you about today is a course that I done last year and
it was called the WRAP course, so WRAP which is Wellness Recovery Action Plan, I always
get that mixed up [laughs]. The Wellness Action Recovery Plan was actually
created in the United States by a lady who was mistreated in a mental institution. She
didn’t find very much aftercare help after, she had no where to turn too and when she
got well in 1997 she wrote what is called the WRAP Wellness Action Recovery Plan which
is an official document now in America. And, I’ll just show you what it looks like,
so this is mine, this is when I done the WRAP course with the Belfast College, or the Belfast
Recovery College, ehm, why is this course good?! This course helps you establish your triggers,
umm it helps you establish how far you’re on in your recovery and when I say ‘recovery’
because I mentioned drugs at the start don’t be misinformed this is solely for mental health
it’s nothing to do with drugs. OK, users might be ex-addicts but everyone is here with the
same agenda and that is to get well and to up-skill themselves to get a new career perhaps
or to give them the confidence to go out and volunteer if they’ve been unemployed for a
while umm, so the courses there are really effective. For me personally, it’s been a
massive massive part of my recovery. Without college, I don’t know what I would have done.
The courses have kept me grounded, they’ve gave me stability, they’ve gave me routine,
and I am actually still suffering with a number of illnesses including OCD, PTSD, Anxiety,
and severe generalised anxiety disorder so my life can be hellish at times. But, you
know now and again I force myself out to go to a course and I really do find them beneficial.
Put it this way, I NEVER come back disappointed. The courses are great, the tutors are great
and they’ll do anything to help and they’ve got a wide range of courses but the course
again I’m going to focus on is the WRAP course. The WRAP Course umm I’ve never developed a
WRAP course for someone else. I attended the college, the Belfast Recovery College, through
the Belfast Trust in the community last year and I done a 3-day course. 3 afternoons for
free. You know, its not much time and during that time I learnt a lot about myself and
my recovery journey. Each individual recovery journey is completely different, you know,
first of all at the course you establish like what is hope. Think about hope, what does
it mean for you in your receovery? And what hope gives you personally so you know you
work in a group setting. Don’t be alarmed at that I had anxiety and was very very worried
about going into my first course which was actually the WRAP course and you make friends
really really quickly. Everyone is really nice, the tutors help you settle in comfortably
and their always very amicable and a will go out of their way to help. So, if you’re feeling anxious I would even
recommend dropping them a wee email before you go in just so they know your coming so
they know to look out for you and to make sure you’re alright. Now one of thing’s I really loved about it,
it was about you know fostering hope for the future because as an ex-addict I was always
in the past and I could never really take hold of my future without letting go of the
past. Hope is something you aspire too so hope is something I hope to achieve in maybe
5 years. You know, my hope at the moment is to become an advocate for mental health and
maybe volunteer briefly to get myself back into work and help other people with mental
health issues. You know, there is such a stigma around mental health, it’s unbelievable. That’s
my goal so it’s good to have hope. It’s always good to have hope. So, the WRAP course helps
you establish goals you’d like to achieve in your future so that they seem more realistic
and not as far fetched as a dream. So it’s really helpful. You learn about taking personal responsibility
for your own recovery because only you can take responsibility for your own recovery.
Again, I’ll go back to my example as an ex-addict, you know, I had to take responsibility it
was me that had to reach out for help. I have childhood trauma I needed to reach out for
counselling so you know theres loads of charities and companies across the City who offer loads
of courses but the number one, and I have to say, is the Belfast Recovery College. That
has been crucial to my recovery and I’ve been involved with them now for a year or 2. As well, during my WRAP Course, I learnt about
self-advocating, so for anyone that doesn’t know, an advocate stands for you, gives you
a voice but never takes your voice away. So, if you’re quite timid with low self-esteem,
low confidence the course really helps build up your confidence and it helps give you a
voice, it helps you to become assertive, [laughs] not aggressive, it gives you the definition
of that so that you are able to go out and get jobs, get voluntary positions to get yourself
well into your recovery and doing the normal things that other people do but we just can’t
do at the moment because of our mental ill-health. Now there ‘s loads and loads of support that
you identify in the recovery college. They give you you know, I’ve got my book here [shows
workbook] and I’m just going to show you one page, this is the support page. And this is
the part where ‘who should I go to’ so the WRAP is a document that you with mental health
give to your careworkers, your CPN, your Social Worker, your community nurse, your rehabilitation
centre, etc. It’s not formally a legal document here yet
but it should be because when I hand this document over to someone, they know as soon
as they see a behaviour displayed they know, OK, Leah’s going down a slope, we need to
do something to get her out here because I see signs that she’s given me in her WRAP
plan that would tell me or indicate that she’s headed for a downward slope so we need to
get in and get involved. And, you know, for support for me I identify, again amazing,
this has been a massive part of my self-recovery journey is learning about me, learning what
works for me and the recovery course, the WRAP course, has certainly help me do that. I learnt that internally that praying for
me was massive, my faith umm, walking, music is another massive thing for me, reading a
book, colouring-in, drawing they are just some internal thing, inherent things, that
help me calm down, it helps take my mind off whatever stress is going through mind off
whatever stress it’s going through at that moment. External, support would be family members,
your Community practitioner nurses, your social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, anyone
you work with that you can reach out to in a time of trouble when you’re not feeling
too great. They should actually have a copy of your document as well. As I said it’s not
official but it’s good for them to get an understanding about you as well because it
breaks down your triggers, and it also gives you wellness tools as well. So, ehm things that you might not even have
discovered yourselves so, you know, knowing how to plan for the future, ok. Knowing that
there is no limits, you can actually achieve more than you thought you could ever achieve
just because you have a mental illness does not put you down the line for achievement.
You know, it takes a big effort and a big step to make that step to go to a course when
you know there is other people there. The courses are very very well attended but I
haven’t been to one course yet where people have not been friendly. So, keep that in mind
cause it really really is beneficial for your recovery, no matter what you’re going through.
It could be trauma, it could be domestic abuse, other abuse, it could be addiction recovery,
chronic pain, anything. If you’re trying to recover, and I believe that we all are trying
to recover from something in life. If you’re trying to recover the course is excellent. I also learnt strengths, I learnt how to build
up my self-esteem and was able to make choices for myself again referring to self-advocacy,
you know, knowing what I want, giving myself a voice and making a plan for the future. Ok, so that’s the most important and that
ties in nicely with hope again because when you’re in the position I was in last year
I had NO HOPE. I felt that I had no hope. I felt that I would die an addict and that
was utter truth. But, do you know what, that’s not the case. And then you put together this brilliant tool
which is called my wellness tool and its a grid and I’m just going to read a few of them
out for you because I don’t want to bore you too much. So, this is self-care for me when
I feel like I’m starting to slide or I get depressed or bored. Boredom is a massive trigger
for me. I learnt that as well. And to avoid that I’d maybe have a bath, go into town and
to buy one of my favourite bath Lush Bath bombs. I’d maybe watch something on Netflix,
go to the cinema, have a coffee with a friend, draw, meditate, yoga, or prayer. They’re just
some things in my wellness toolkit that I know that I can call upon when I need to help
relieve the stress that I’m experiencing at that point in time. But, everybody is different
so [shows workbook] believe it or not was actually different for every single person
in the class so it’s an individual approach ok, this book is individual to you but it’s
unique. If that makes sense? It’s unique because it’s everything about you is in this book. You are able to hand this book to someone
and they’ll know you after reading it and know what signs to look for and know how to
maybe bring you round out of a depressing situation, maybe, I’mm refer to my boredum
thing, people know when I start to get bored family members and friends becuase of this
plan now know that they might have to work that wee bit extra harder to keep me occupied
from having my mind spiral back down to ‘Oh I want to use’ which is never going to be
the case because I am clean and I have made the choice to recover and every day I get
stronger and the course and courses have helped me manage that significantly. Another thing is, you know, the daily maintenance
section of the WRAP plan is very very very important. It gives you or the person [your
carer] an indication of what your like on a good day, what your like on an OK day, and
what to expect when you’re at your worst. OK, so it’s just some signals that people
can understand after reading your personalised WRAP plan document, they will be able to recognise
signs, traits, and circumstances that you might need to avoid or you need to do more
of to bring you out of the hole your in. And you learn about your triggers. Everyone has
triggers. Triggers is not just associated with addiction. Triggers can be, you know,
smells, emotions, everything, you know if you have triggers that you’ve identified the
WRAP Plan make a list of all of your triggers so that then I know, my family know that if
I can’t drink alcohol I’ll be triggered if there’s a bar setting so we’ll go to a restaurant
where the bar is downstairs perhaps. So that would be one of my triggers and my family
understand that becuase of the Well Recovery Action Plan. So, it’s made life a whole lot
better for not only me but for my family and it helps them understand me on my level. Which
is hard to explain sometimes. It takes you through the early warning signs for someone
to expect when they see you go through the stages. Signs that your breaking down again,
you list your signs like a few of mine were seeking medication or medical advice when
I become so angry and I can’t control it that’s a sign that I’m breaking down and need to
implement the safety plan within the WRAP course booklet. So, it’s very very important,
you know, a crisis always involves change, this is a turning point with the potential
of positive and negative effects or both. But it’s your choice what you want to do because
it is hard, I mean even if I talk about my mental health, my anxiety, some times I struggle
to get on a bus, sometimes I struggle to lift up the phone, to lift a phonecall from a family
member, or to respond to texts. But, through the recovery college and through their courses,
another course I’ll mention but I won’t go into is their meditation course, 8-weeks,
absolutely fantastic. But if I was to recommend any course it would be the Wellness Recovery
Action Plan (WRAP). It’s a 3-day course and its held in the Lanyon building, just off
the Shore Road in Belfast. It is part of the Trust, it is part of the community and it
is here to help you. Free of charge, you know, taking the doctor out of the picture and helping
you get to the root of your problem instead of just medicating. You know It’s just constant
medication, medicating for this, and medicating for that. Well, why don’t you go and learn
to manage chronic pain through a meditation course for instance which they run again for
8-weeks, which is very very valuable? So, how important has the college been in my recovery?
Extremely important. If it wasn’t for that I’d be in severe trouble [laughs] not intentionally
but now that WRAP course has made me a identify another course of a career path I would like
to go into and then I did another course with them, with the Belfast Recovery College called
Advocacy course and some of the courses are accredited so watch out for that. If you’re
wanting to change career and because I’ve been through so much with mental health, as
I said, my idea is to get into advocacy in mental health and help signpost people to
the right services for them. Because of my lived-experience and because I’ll have been
accredited by the end of the course there’s always voluntary opportunities available,
some through the Irish Network of Advocacy and things. So, it’s something that can help
you recover, can help you understand yourself on a better level, could help you understand
why you feel the way you feel, and can help you manage the symptoms of whatever you’re
feeling and also can help build self-confidence and self-esteem again especially if you’ve
been in recovery for a while your mental illness tends to try and control you, it would like
to keep you in bed for a significant amount of days in a row but it’s my choice to push
myself because I don’t want that life of having to have a substandard life because if I can’t
push past my recovery. So, yes, definitely. I would recommend the Belfast Recovery College
without a doubt. The college is if you just google search them ‘Belfast Recovery College’
and their website [let me see if I have their logo so you know what you’re looking for]
yip! Their logo is here so it looks like that [shows an image of logo] Belfast Recovery
College so if you can Google them have a look at their courses, have a look at their prospectus
– all you have to do is email. Just drop an email and if there is space on the course
they always try to accommodate you even if there’s not. But I want to thank you for your
time. Thank you for listening. And I hope that someone finds some value in this video
and I wish you all the very best in your own recoveries. It’s not easy but stick in there
and you’ll get there. Thank you so much for your time guys, appreciate it. Bye-bye.

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