We created custom scenario-based online learning to support people with mental health and wellbeing issues, while also alleviating pressure on our mental health services.
It is Ireland’s first ever virtual recovery college and includes multiple stakeholders and a cross-border approach.
Co-operation and Working Together (CAWT) comprises the NI Health and Social Care Board, the NI Public Health Agency, the Western Health and Social Care Trust (WHSCT), the Southern Health and Social Care Trust (SHSCT) in Northern Ireland and the Health Service Executive (HSE) in the Republic of Ireland.
The Mental Health Recovery College Network is a cross-border programme between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland that offers support to those recovering from mental health issues.
Before Covid, the programme was only offered in physical settings, and CAWT wanted to scale the initiative to offer these much-needed services to others suffering from mental health struggles.
Covid accelerated this need, as many of the face-to-face interactions were no longer possible.
Given the pressures on mental health services and resources, and the high prevalence of mental health issues in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a digital solution was needed to support more people while also helping to aid mental health professionals.
A digital programme for training on mental health and wellbeing would help give more people access to resources when they need support. This would include the general public, Recovery College tutors, carers and family members, GPs, and other health professionals.
The goal was to provide free training to ensure as many people as possible had access to resources to improve their own mental health and wellbeing, as well as that of people around them. This, in turn, helps to relieve some of the pressure on mental health services and staff.
The Innovation Recovery Project is a large-scale, cross-border approach to self-management and recovery for mental health issues.
CAWT received EU funding to establish a Virtual Recovery College, combining custom eLearning content and a learning management system (LMS).
Working with a partner to deploy a Totara LMS to facilitate the hosting and tracking of the learning content, we are responsible for the development of a suite of 24 interactive eLearning modules on topics such as Anxiety, Depression and Grief.
The eLearning modules included in the Virtual Recovery College project incorporate:
- Development in the best-of-breed Articulate Storyline 360 authoring tool with a mobile optimised design.
- Application of leading instructional design theories, combining the latest in adult learning with our own tried and tested IMPACT learning model.
- Inclusion of a pre- and post-learning Individual Recovery Learning Plan in each module, to help learners focus on what they want to achieve by undertaking the module.
- Use of engaging content and interaction types, including realistic scenarios, digital stories, and animations.
We listened to CAWT to understand exactly what they needed and decided on a tailored eLearning solution that was easy for people to use when under mental or emotional stress.
The training is self-calibrated, and gives learners control over their personalised learning experience, allowing them to work at their own pace and identify what they want to achieve from the learning. We made the content easy to understand with large photos, trigger warnings, user-friendly interactivity, and short text for visual or non-verbal learners.
We included a range of content types to keep users engaged, such as auditory learning like guided meditation, stories of real-life experiences, audio, and videos.
It was important to share stories of people who had faced or were facing, similar mental health issues to help the learner identify how the training could help them. It was also important for these people to have Northern Irish or Irish accents to further help learners identify with the stories and see themselves reflected in the learning content.
When under emotional stress, you can feel alone, and we wanted our learners to feel like someone was there to listen and support them and give them hope that they will overcome their issues.
Launched by the Northern Ireland Health Minister, Robin Swann, in March 2021, the results so far include:
- More people have access to free mental health resources when they need them.
- The programme teaches those with mental health issues how to cope independently to help alleviate the pressure on healthcare services.
- Provided access to healthcare services during Covid when services were limited or on hold.
- Supports GPs, carers, and anyone else supporting those with mental health issues.
- Gives quick access to healthcare resources at a time when waiting lists are increasing.
Since its launch, over 8000 participants have taken part, with new organisations expressing an interest in future training.
Cathy McCloskey, Innovation Recovery Project Manager at CAWT said, “Anecdotal evidence suggests that participants in Recovery College courses have found the sessions to be really useful and engaging – from Mindfulness and Relaxation, the Covid Toolbox and Life after Lockdown – there is something for everyone.”