International perspectives on mental health recovery: Italian Study Tour

Two members of our clinical services team have recently had the opportunity to attend Franca and Franco Basaglia International School, for a 3 day study tour in Trieste Italy. The tour brought together senior managers, clinicians and people with lived experience from around the world to share and learn from pioneering services that help people recover from mental health problems.

Hosted by the WHO Collaborating Centre for research and training in mental health, the tour provided the opportunity to explore the concept and purpose of the Whole Life – Whole Systems Approach in helping people retain their health and wellbeing, and reclaim their place in the community. This is in recognition of the importance of acknowledging that people’s needs must be addressed within a holistic framework involving the whole community.

The 3 day tour used a series of classroom based sessions, service visits and group discussions to examine the following:

  • Is there a link between work, recovery and citizenship?
  • What are the challenges to implementing a Whole Life – Whole Systems approach?

Participants visited the emergency unit attached to the General Hospital, the community mental health centre and two of Trieste’s social co-operatives; La Fragola restaurant and a community café at the local mental health/learning disability hospital.

The tour ended with the ‘Practices for Citizenship and Social inclusion’ international conference, which focused on practices and programs for citizenship, community and social inclusion, whilst tackling the stigma and discrimination against those citizens who have mental health problems.

One of the speakers was Richard Warner, Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Colorado, who talked about the importance of optimism, empowerment and interpersonal support within the recovery journey.

Other speakers included Alain Torpor, Researcher Psychologist, Sweden, who discussed the findings of his study, ‘The role of work in the recovery of bipolar disorder.’ He described how activity, leisure, hobbies and ultimately purpose in life can lead to recovery.

Lisa White, Recovery Lead at Alternative Futures Group said: “The visit to Italy highlighted for me the importance of empowering the people we support to move forward in their own recovery, by addressing their own goals, no matter what stage in the recovery journey they are at. The Italian recovery process was aimed at supporting people to take responsibility for their own recovery and live successfully not just in their community, but taking an active role as part of that community. If we at AFG can instill that sense of empowerment onto the people we support, we can aim to help people in their recovery journey regain control of their lives and live the life they choose.”

Lear Rothwell, Assistant Director of Clinical Services at Alternative Futures Group said: “What struck me was how effective the care – coordination was within the provenance. Wherever the client was within the system their named nurse/care coordinator was supporting them in their recovery. This led to a real emphasis on keeping people at home; accessing meaningful employment and empowering them to be in control of their own lives. Taking into account the lessons from Trieste, AFG are hoping to work in partnership with stakeholders to introduce a whole systems approach to CPA across the North West.”