Through Maudsley Charity funding, staff and patients working together in Lewisham young people’s services have launched a Recovery College, called Alchemy. The project enables young people in Lewisham to access a range of exciting classes and opportunities.
Dan is the staff member who works full time on the project.
“It’s an example of total co-production. The project a range of courses in mental health management and psycho-education, art, dance therapy, music, make-up and more. Young people support the project and vote on what courses and activities should be run.
“The project idea came from some of the feedback we have had from young people who have used Lewisham mental health services – they talked about the Adult Recovery College model and said ‘we wish we had something like this in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS)’.
“It’s an example of total co-production. Young people support the project and vote on what courses and activities should be run."
Alchemy focuses around two working groups, one with a focus on BAME themes and the other with a focus on LGBT. The two groups review the course content and ensure it matches their needs. Equality is a theme that runs throughout the project.
The two groups are coming together to produce a cultural training and awareness programme.
“We recently nine different courses and workshops, continues Dan. “We also ran a parent group, eight parents attended a six-week course, run by young people as a CAMHS Service. It’s great that there is something we can offer parents.”
Bimbim in one of the young people who has been involved with the project since the beginning.
“Alchemy was born from the Young People’s Advisory Group (YAG) where it was suggested that we ran a Recovery College. I think that the ‘Recovery College’ name has a bad connotation for young people as they link it to work and school; and when you come to CAMHS services you want to get away from the stress and struggle of school, so we came up with the name Alchemy for the project.”
“When you see the benefits, the fact that you made a young person get out of the house, take part in a course and be energetic, it makes you want to continue.”
Bimbim has been running a make-up course which has had up to six attendees.
“There are lots of opportunities being in Alchemy, I get to work closely with young people, express ideas and I feel the project is very co-facilitated. We, as young people, know what benefits us and this project takes us into consideration, from start to the end – unlike more traditional treatment models which can often feel like there is more of a ‘we think this will work for you’ approach.
Tailoring therapy for LGBT and BAME groups
“With the project centred around two groups LGBT and BAME Bimbim says that it is nice to be someone from those communities and have the opportunity to express that.
“Sometimes the communities we come from are ignored and are not tailoring their offer.
As a person I think it’s really empowering that therapy can be tailored to you, it’s not a generalised thing, staff understand that I experience the world different because off my background. It’s very empowering to see that people actually care about the places you have come from.
Looking towards the future Bimbim hopes to see the project expand.
“When I think about the future, I think about a bigger project, with more young people involved in it – I hope it will touch a lot more people and inspire them to get involved.
Joe is another member of Alchemy. Speaking about the project he said:
“I guess for me it was really important as I was a young person in a mental health service and I wanted to help other young people in similar positions as me, I think it was really helpful for me to do that. Seeing young people succeed makes me feel good, it’s what I am passionate about.
“I enjoy music that’s my background, I play the drums. For Alchemy I did a lot of the organising of groups, making ideas, my favourite part is being there, facilitating the projects. I was nervous the first time I facilitated a project, but it fell back in my head – it is important to make the most of the time we have with young people. Honestly, I think Alchemy is one the most important and uplifting things I do. It honestly makes me happy.”
In April 2019 the project received additional funding from Lewisham health and social care services in recognition of the project’s impact and importance to the local community.
Expansion to Lambeth
After a great success in Lewisham CAMHS, the Alchemy project has now expanded to its second borough – Lambeth. In November 2019, the Lambeth CAMHS department started implementing Alchemy into its services and offering monthly BAME and LGBTQ+ groups, as well as other standalone therapeutic workshops, focusing on developing skills in emotional regulation, resilience and stress management.