This is the third blog in our lifelong learning series and it is a real pleasure to be able to write about the work of Converge – a great example of how universities can reach out to people who would perhaps not normally think of coming into a university environment.
What is Converge?
Converge is an educational facility for people who use, or have used, mental health services. Students have described the programme as a “healing campus.” I love this term! It expresses the holistic and caring nature of the facility.
How does it work?
Teachers, lecturers and over 100 students from York St John run the courses. Originally these were just based around arts subjects but the success of the facility has meant the programme has expanded to include sport and business studies. The emphasis is not on talking about mental health problems. The environment is non-stigmatised so users participate as any other student would but the courses themselves are targeted to specific needs.
What are the benefits?
The programme benefits both Converge users and lecturers and students involved in the programme allowing everyone to learn from each other. Users have said how the programme opens doors as well as giving a sense of daily focus and something to aim for in a relaxed and manageable way. Converge offers users an opportunity to be defined not just as a “mental health user” but as a student, an actor, a singer…and much more (many of those who start as Converge students go on to be teachers on the programme). Over 200 people complete Converge courses each year and the programme won the Medipex Innovation in the NHS (mental health) award in 2014.
Collaboration is key
As with the Green Apples project discussed in yesterday’s blog, Converge is a partnership project working with mental health service providers in the Yorkshire region.
If you are interested in seeing some of the work by Converge, come along this Friday and Saturday (7th and 8th April) to the performance of Retail Therapy. Tickets available now: http://store.yorksj.ac.uk/conferences-and-events/conferences-events/events/retail-therapy-performed-by-out-of-character