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Recovery College

A Little Box of Hope for North Tyneside

NT Life Boxes of Hope from Robin on Vimeo.

Participants of VODA’s NT LIFE Recovery College in North Tyneside received a special surprise at their door recently with the delivery of a Little Box of Hope to help support them through this challenging time.

NT LIFE – which is funded by the North Tyneside CCG – created 200 Little Boxes of Hope, each containing a series of exercises, contacts, poems and motivational quotes and a number of small gifts, each with an explanation of why they have been included have been collated and distributed with help from a number of volunteers, support from the team at One Below at the Silverlink and funding from the North East Suicide Prevention Network.

Over the course of the COVID-19 crisis, NT LIFE Recovery College worker Ali Donkin has had to completely rethink the support offered to participants. Part of the ethos of NT LIFE is the ability to come together to share experiences and learn how to manage our own wellbeing and mental health. However, the coronavirus has (temporarily) put a stop to these face to face activities.

Ali quickly adapted NT LIFE to ensure that she is still able to support those who need it via online resources, with the NT LIFE Facebook page becoming a central point of contact for daily support and resources. The Facebook page and website feature a range of online resources including the 11:11 Mindfulness 5 Minute mindfulness journal, downloadable activities and free courses, alongside home delivered activity packs from the team at VODA. The NT LIFE course facilitators have also created a range of online sessions accessible via video conferencing platform Zoom.

It became clear that some of the people involved in NT LIFE were finding the lockdown particularly difficult and so Ali decided to create a Little Box of Hope to help them through. Ali commented: “I created the Little Box of Hope firstly to reach out and let people know they are not alone and to help them through these challenging times. There is always someone on the outside thinking of them and willing to help. They have worth and value even if they don’t feel that way right now. If at the very least it makes someone smile for a moment, in spite of their anxieties and fears, then we really have achieved something important.”

Some of the items in the box are to give the person a moment to STOP and take time to adjust their thinking, to recognise these feelings are not permanent. There are also items that are metaphors, for example the yoyo – a distraction – the soothing motion of the yoyo on the string, but also a reminder of simpler times playing with childhood toys. The box also includes practical things such as the list of crisis contacts and helplines. There are tools and techniques for dealing with feelings and also some things that are simply humorous.

“I recall many a time when I have witnessed in myself and others how humour can bring us back from the brink,” says Ali.

What do we hope this box will achieve? Ali comments: “My deepest hope is that for anyone who really is at their lowest, is thinking seriously about ending their life, it stops them in the moment and offers an alternative choice. If it prevents even one suicide then this little box of hope will be priceless.”

Feedback so far has shown that the boxes have been well received:

“I was having a really bad day today in fact I was close to ending everything. I can’t describe how much it means to me. I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart. To know someone thinks enough to put something like that together and deliver it is the most amazing thing I have ever had.”

“Paddy and Linda Rogan are both in their seventies. I’ve been shopping for them for the last couple of months. Paddy has dementia so Linda can’t leave him and he doesn’t understand the social distancing policies everywhere.” 

 

 

 

“My sister has been living with mental ill health for 30 years and doesn’t get out much, lockdown or not. She really appreciated her box.”

 

 

 

“Thank you so much for my lovely gift and thoughts. It was so lovely of you. it moved me tears. You are a diamond. Is there any other stone more precious because if there is I’ll have to start calling you that one?”

“Just wanted to say a huge thank you for my box today. The box made me cry and made me feel so special. It’s absolutely beautiful and I will treasure it, thank you so much.”

“Thank you so much for the comfort packs for me and my mam, I don’t know if you know this but our cat was knocked over and killed early yesterday morning. We are going to use the box as a memory box for her.”

The boxes were collated and delivered by a team of volunteers, who also found that they benefited from the activity.  With volunteers commenting:

“On Friday for the first time in a long while I felt excited and involved.”

“Thank you so much for your help, support and the laughter we had on Friday packing the Little Boxes of Hope. It was an amazing day from my perspective and having delivered some of these over the weekend they are getting a great response.”

 

 

 

 

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NT Life Blog: December 2019

Welcome one and all to our first blog. I’m Emma, I have been volunteering for the NT LIFE Recovery College since its early days back in May. Some of you will have seen me at groups or taking notes at the drop in sessions. Some of the feedback we got at the drop in sessions was that people would like a newsletter/blog of some sort and while this will in no way be perfect please bear with me, whilst in my own unique and probably odd way, to sum up what an amazing first few months.   

 

If you don’t like statistics please jump this paragraph, but for those of you who, like me, are fascinated with them, here are some numbers. Since we started we have now had over 900 hours of student participation. We have also had over 140 hours volunteered by our incredible facilitators and we have registered over 130 people. Many of the groups have been so popular that facilitators have run additional sessions meaning we have nearly doubled the number of sessions provided from what we had originally planned. We have successfully run 13 courses and things like our Christmas Crafternoon sessions were so popular that the spaces filled up within days of it being announced.  

You will be relieved to hear I will stop with the numbers now, but what I really wanted to say in amongst all that was that none of this would be possible without you! The people reading this who have attended sessions or run a course, those who are new to us and just finding your feet, thank you for your involvement and making this all happen. I hope that you got something out of the experience and hope that come January when the courses resume we will see you back, trying new things or continuing with courses that you already enjoy.  

So, let’s celebrate what we have achieved so far. Here are just a handful of pictures we have gathered since September.  

These are some of the dogs who join their humans on the weekly Dogs and friends walking group. The group met on a Tuesday morning and went out and about together on walking adventures.  

 

 

 

 

Here are some of the Christmas Crafternoon creations. The group met for four weeks in November and December on a Wednesday afternoon, listened to Christmas music and made different Christmas themed items.  

 

 

 

 

On the left is one of the pictures from the writing group which met every Tuesday morning. While to the right is a picture from the art group that met on a Tuesday afternoon. 

 

 

 

FEEDBACK

We always want to hear what feedback everyone has. If you think there is anything that we could do better or any courses you would like to see us running please send an email to ali.donkin@voda.org.uk. In addition if you have had a good experience could you please leave us some feedback on the Healthwatch North Tyneside website here. This is so that people who search for us online will get a better understanding of who we are and what we do.  

Thanks

Emma

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North Tyneside LIFE: New Recovery College is here!

A new volunteer-led service has launched in North Tyneside, offering a programme of free courses and workshops aimed at the self-management of mental health and wellbeing.

Created in consultation with over 80 individuals, mental health professionals, charities and voluntary organisations, NT LIFE is the new Recovery College for North Tyneside and is launching from its new base at The Hub in the Linskill Centre, North Shields this September.

Recovery Colleges offer educational courses about mental health and recovery, which are designed to increase students’ knowledge and skills and to help them feel more confident in the self-management of their own health and wellbeing. Delivered in a safe and friendly community setting, courses and workshops are co-produced and designed by individuals who have lived experience of challenges with their own mental health, and who want to pass on their LIFE learning, skills and knowledge to help others.

Ali Donkin, North Tyneside Recovery College Coordinator said: “We are extremely proud and excited to launch NT LIFE, which stands for Learning Experiences From Everyone. We have been busy since June of this year developing a programme which meets the needs of local residents and supplements existing mental health and wellbeing support available. I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who attended our drop-in sessions and who contributed their stories, input, opinions and feedback on how the College should be shaped. Everything from the name to the logo, course content, timings and prospectus have been co-produced by the students, volunteers and professionals who we will be working with to make NT LIFE a success.”

A series of workshops and courses are now available between September and December 2019 with a range of one-off events, weekly sessions and longer-term courses on topics including mindfulness, positive thinking, resilience, confidence building, creative writing, walking football and netball, and lots more. There are also a wide range of volunteering opportunities available as part of the College with roles in administration, enrolment, course delivery and co-facilitation. Ali goes on to say: “NT LIFE relies on the support of volunteers to deliver courses and provide continued support to its day-to-day running. We absolutely champion the ‘expert by experience’ approach and believe that those people with lived experience of mental health recovery and wellbeing can be best-placed to support those who are struggling or need some support. We’d love to hear from anyone – potential students, volunteers or professionals who want to know more and get involved in NT LIFE!”

Funded by North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and hosted by North Tyneside VODA, the Recovery College courses are free and available to North Tyneside residents aged 18 and over.

For more information, including how to enrol, course details and volunteering opportunities, visit the NT LIFE section of our website or contact us for more information.

  

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