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Why make the effort? Exploring recovery college engagement

Leanne Harper (Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, Chester, UK)
Mick McKeown (University of Central Lancashire, Preston, UK)

Mental Health and Social Inclusion

ISSN: 2042-8308

Article publication date: 12 February 2018




Whilst there is growing evidence to suggest that the recovery college (RC) environment supports students towards their mental health recovery (Meddings et al., 2015b), students’ initial motivations for engagement, alongside factors that may hinder or support attendance, have yet to be exclusively explored. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


All new RC students were invited to take part in a semi-structured interview three months following their enrolment. Four participants completed an interview which were later analysed using thematic analysis.


Four themes emerged within analysis: making the effort; being “too unwell”; friendly environment; and glad I came. These are discussed alongside the literature, and it is proposed that whilst there is a substantial struggle involved in engagement with a RC, likely related to mental health and social factors, the RC environment, peer support and support of the tutors helps students to overcome the impact of this.

Research limitations/implications

Due to the small sample size and exploratory stance of this study, additional research into the complexities around engagement with RCs is strongly recommended. Only students who had attended at least one RC course chose to participate in this study, therefore an under-researched population of non-attendees may provide a valuable contribution to further understanding.


This is one of the first studies to qualitatively explore factors which may support, or hinder, initial and ongoing engagement with a RC. It is proposed that a greater understanding of these important issues could be used to increase RC accessibility and inclusion.



This research was partly funded by the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care North West Coast (NIHR CLAHRC NWC).

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department or Health.


Harper, L. and McKeown, M. (2018), "Why make the effort? Exploring recovery college engagement", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 22 No. 1, pp. 27-33.



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