Buckinghamshire Recovery College launched last Wednesday, and Mr Brand spoke at a special seminar with service users and staff on Friday.
Comedian and campaigner Russell Brand spoke frankly about his own mental health struggles as he launched an innovative new service in Aylesbury.
The college is an educational environment for people who are accessing mental health services in Buckinghamshire, their supporters, carers, staff, volunteers and students.
Billed as “using an empowering and educational approach to mental health recovery” Buckinghamshire Recovery College is run for people who use mental health services by people who have experienced or live with mental ill health themselves.
These ‘lived experience tutors’ work alongside health professionals to co-produce and co-deliver courses and workshops offering people the knowledge, skills and support to manage their health.
Speaking to the group, Mr Brand said: “The great thing about this college is that it provides a different more compassionate approach to mental health and addiction.
“I want to share honestly my experiences with addiction and mental health issues.
“First when I came to the attention of the public services was around when I was 14.
“When your inner life overwhelms your external experience, and it contravenes our social consensus of what normal is.
“When I was a little kid I felt separate, distinct and anxious about my role in the world.
“I’ve had mental health issues for as long as I’ve had mental health. I think probably we all do. I think there is the potential for change when we work together communally with an agenda. Community, support and lateral support are areas we can’t compromise on.”
Organisers say the innovative scheme offers an alternative or accompaniment to the more traditional therapeutic approach to mental healthcare.
The college operates on a hub and spokes model offering support to people across Buckinghamshire including Aylesbury, Wycombe and Milton Keynes. The hub is based at the Whiteleaf Centre in Aylesbury and courses take place at venues across the county.
Lived experience tutor Suz Hemming said: “One of my favourite things about the recovery college is that it is so informal. You’re literally meeting with your peers. You’re not on the receiving end of something somebody else has deemed appropriate for you. You’re just having a conversation, you’re learning new skills, you’re learning from each other.”
Carol Tough, head of Buckinghamshire Recovery College: “The Recovery College a brand new educational service with a focus on recovery. When we talk about recovery we don’t mean a cure, or a fix We mean how people can manage and cope with their lives with whatever life has thrown at them.
“When we talk about recovery it is important to look at what that person wants to find meaning and purpose in their lives. All of us have mental health, and physical health. There’s such a range of what we need to deal with on a day to day basis.
"What’s unique about the college is the idea of co-production, all of our courses are run by two tutors, one will be somebody with professional experience of training - the other tutor will be somebody with lived experience, who’s been there, seen it and done who has survived and living their own recovery.
"You don’t need to have been in hospital to come and join us. About 200 students are now registered with the college.
“We welcome anybody who is interested in recovery, or willing to share their experience. To date we’ve run about 40 sessions on a variety of courses from managing anxiety to mindfulness, depression and low mood, understanding bipolar - through to painting ceramics and art for expression.
“We have such a range of courses to try and supply our demand, it’s about what the students want and what they feel about their recovery.
“For some people just getting out of the front door, sitting with others is such an achievement and a real start to their own recovery journey."
You can find out more about the scheme by going to www.facebook.com/BucksRecoveryCollege