Friday 29th April 2022


Recovery is Just Talk



Focus group says NHS monopolises mental health services and is decades behind scientific knowledge


Is recovery from the devastating mental and emotional impact of prolonged trauma possible?
What does ‘recovery’ mean to you?
Our name has the word 'recovery' in it, and we thought it was about time we explored public attitudes and beliefs on the concept, writes ANNA BRAGGA.


We hosted a discussion involving people from different backgrounds with three things in common: they’d all struggled with severe mental health challenges and sought help from the NHS, and all had been Bedfordshire residents.

 

“I’ll never change, I’ll always be medicated,” announced Carl, who has been diagnosed with acute PTSD. The former drug user said he’d been in recovery for nine years, and managing it was key.

 

SHARING STORIES, having a voice


The notion of ‘being in recovery’ has its roots in the psychiatric survivor movement of the 1960s around the time of Health Minister, Enoch Powell’s, announcement of the closure of the asylums. People share their stories to highlight their strengths and experiences.

 

The Recovery Model puts the onus on the person who has experienced the trauma/abuse to take responsibility for their mental health and recovery. The problem for income-strapped survivors is that if you rely solely on NHS services you may find your options are limited.



THE CHEMICAL Imbalance Theory

 

Jane* had reached middle age with a sense of having lost thirty years of her life locked in the system, forcibly medicated, with a diagnosis that didn’t feel right. She said she’d been told that the definition of mental illness meant you can’t do daily tasks, and recovery to her, was “feeling comfortable where you are.”

 

The Medical Model still dominates NHS policy, according to our focus group. Emotional and mental distress is treated as a medical issue, based on the notion that you are mentally ill. There’s a chemical imbalance in your brain, and stabilisation with the use of medication – and a course in Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) if you are lucky, is the protocol.

 

Everyone is offered the same thing, said Carl, and when it doesn’t work, they drop out of services. Most people don’t know anything other than the NHS.


MISSING links

 

Clinicians could help more by looking at the causes of the difficulties, says peer support consultant, Emma Jaynes, of the Adept Living Foundation which runs training programmes for charities. Sometimes, it’s the lifestyle, family or job that caused the trauma. ‘Recovery’ in this case, means moving away from circumstances that don’t suit you. It’s more to do with who you are with.
 
From the point of view of the survivor, recovery means having access to a range of services and professionals who understand the multi-faceted appearances of Complex PTSD: you can look OK on the outside, neat and trimmed, coherent, but be falling apart on the inside. Or you may be a jobless, homeless, tattoo-ed ex-offender ostracised because you scare people.

 

PEER-LED ORGANISATIONS fill A gap

 

The problem is that the bulk of government funding for mental health services is in the NHS, and beneficial therapies like EMDR, acupuncture and craniosacral therapy, are not easy to access. Small, peer-led organisations like Recovery Code X are excluded from funding streams because they don’t conform to the protocol.

 

The irony is that just a tiny fraction of the NHS’s millions could help fund peer support groups led by clinicians with specialist training in Complex PTSD. It would allow us to hire the services of accredited therapists skilled in a range of holistic techniques that can help alleviate the symptoms of Complex PTSD and aid a journey of recovery. It could help change the meaning of ‘recovery’ to something more than psycho-education about symptoms, CBT and medication for stabilisation.

 

Just £50K would pay for two 7-week series of male and female peer support groups that could eventually lead to a better quality of life for people who have been labelled untreatable, time-wasters and malingerers because they’re too traumatised to speak. Just joining a group and listening to people like you, can be the start of change, and crucially – hope for a better future.

 

*Names have been changed to protect identities.



Monday 14th March 2022



Survivors Hub Taster suggests public ready for a new approach to peer support groups



Recovery Code X received confirmation at their Survivors Hub Taster presentation on March 10th that there is room for a new kind of peer support group in Bedford, packaged to suit different stages of recovery, and different needs.

 
Members of the audience said they appreciated the information, commenting that it was helpful, refreshing, and left them feeling empowered. Some said they felt inspired to join a peer support group.


HUMANISING difficult themes


Discussions took place about the broad range of symptoms associated with Complex PTSD. The speakers answered diverse questions such as: Is PTSD or Complex PTSD worse? And, how do I join a peer support group?

 

Power point slides lit up a wall at the front of the room in cinematic style, and an atmosphere of quiet concentration formed. Each speaker warmed to their topic, humanising difficult themes, drawing on their own experiences of recovery, both personally and professionally.



 Guest speaker, Amit Shenmar, drugs and alcohol misuse worker


Special guest, Amit Shenmar, a former drugs and alcohol misuse worker who has facilitated countless peer support groups with a well known organisation, commented:

 

“I can see Recovery Code X offering different packages to suit people exiting treatment programmes. You’ll need an easy referral process and to reassure people of confidentiality.”

 

Referrals could come from GPs and other local health services. “Making those links is our next priority,” said founder and chair of Recovery Code X, Anna Bragga.

"A series of presentations is planned for 2022 aimed at raising awareness of the organisation, and looking at ways of working together."



 

'This brilliant meeting summed up the support Recovery Code X has to offer which is not available elsewhere.'

Jane from Bedford


To sign up for further information about upcoming talks and peer support groups email admin@recoverycodex.org.




 

Tuesday March 1st 2022

Public Talk about Peer Support Groups


There are almost as many types of peer support group as there are illnesses, some have generic mental health labels, but how many are there that work specifically with Complex PTSD?


On Thursday March 10th, a team of mental health workers will provide a short presentation on what you can gain from being in a peer support group for Complex PTSD, and what it can't do, followed by an open discussion with the audience.

PANEL of speakers


Amit Shenmar - Co-ordinator and facilitator, Peer Support Groups

Anna Bragga - Founder, Recovery Code X, peer tutor

Juanita Puddifoot - Professional transpersonal counsellor, international teacher, Recovery Code X

Carl Gregory - Young People's Complex Needs Worker, Peer tutor, Male Trauma Groups


Listen to the speakers talk about their experience of running peer support groups, who is likely to benefit the most, what we mean by 'recovery' and a 'holistic approach'. You'll be able to ask the panel questions, pick up leaflets and relax with a refreshment afterwards.


Open to anyone with interest in this subject: trauma victims, survivors, friends and loved ones of sufferers, researchers, professionals.


             ------------------------------------

Date: March 10th 2022

Time: 6pm – 7pm

Venue: ACCM UK, 3a Woburn Road MK40 1EG

Entry: FREE


Limited number of places.


Book your place by emailing: amit.shenmar@nhs.net or phone 07387 259 843


Thursday 10th February 2022


Happy Anniversary Recovery Code X!





February, the month of love and romance, is also the month that we get to celebrate Recovery Code X’s anniversary of three years of togetherness, helping to mend hearts broken by years of hurt and trauma.
 
It was 15th February 2019 when a small team of (mainly) survivors with big dreams founded Recovery Code X – Centre for Complex PTSD.


TURNING AN IDEA into reality


We formed this Bedford-based community organisation in order to run face-to-face peer support groups with a holistic approach, and with National Lottery funding started the Survivors Hub in November 2019.

 

The following year we were successful in being awarded funding from the Bedfordshire Charitable Trust to help cover staff training costs in psycho-dynamic counselling.

 

We produced a set of practical self-help guides about Complex PTSD now being distributed in GP surgeries, health centres and charities working with abuse survivors. The project was executed with the assistance of the East London NHS Foundation Trust and our own steering group of mental health professionals. We are currently recruiting volunteers to help spread the word on social media.




The Recovery Code X team launching Project Educate 2021 with Bedford Mayor, Dave Hodgson. Photo credit: Mark Deg and Izzy Smart.



LEARNING AND GROWING


Our involvement with the Bedfordshire and Luton Recovery College’s peer tutor training programme has broadened our knowledge of workshop styles of delivery and content, and shown us that there is a demand for online groups and their unique advantages. As a result, we are in the process of fundraising for a new series of online single-sex Survivors Hub peer support groups for men and women.

 

Now, with the right funding and collaborative support, we’re looking to run the Survivors Hub all year, and host public events and talks so that people can find out more about Complex PTSD, the benefits of peer support and what we mean by a ‘holistic approach’. We’ll be looking at refining our products to meet the needs of those in treatment programmes and high functioning adults looking to improve the quality of their lives and discover new paths to recovery. We’ll be developing collaborations with local groups so that we can support each other as best we can through this topsy turvy pandemic environment.


OPENING DOORS to recovery


Recovery is a journey. Our mission is to inspire and empower people who have experienced repetitive, ongoing abuse and trauma to find the keys to unlocking the codes of their own recovery. We aim to provide a safe environment with tools to support them on their journey to wholeness and harmony in mind, body and soul.

 

Contact us for further information about our Survivors Hub programmes or to be a social media volunteer, or just send us your thoughts and ideas. We’d love to hear from you! Email: admin@recoverycodex.org.

 

Anna L. Bragga

Founder, Chair

Monday 20th December 2021


Peer Support Groups are so needed and have a place in a treatment plan

- Recovery Code X Community Bubble focus group


A haven for traumatised men - a Complex PTSD peer support group, could become a reality in 2022 if we take heed of the advice received in a pre-Christmas gathering of mental health industry professionals and volunteers, writes ANNA BRAGGA, founder of Recovery Code X.
 
People with acute conditions are more likely to have a rough time in services and this is why peer support groups are so needed, said one delegate, whose work puts her in touch with consumers complaints.

MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES don't work with feelings


The problem with services, said another, is that they can’t work with your feelings. You get terrible support in most services. The process is slow as well.  You can’t beat addiction without mental health support. Peer support groups are key. You’ve got to keep attending though.

 

The ever-shifting pandemic restrictions needn’t get in the way of meeting up with a ‘blended approach’ to group work – where people can join in either online from home, or in person at a venue.

 

“We’ve seen it work at the Quakers in Bedford,” said Mark, who works with army vets suffering from PTSD. “Sitting in your own room is gateway stuff; you can join in after you’ve seen others in a group.”


PEER SUPPORT GROUPS make you feel less alone


But first there are a few misconceptions about peer support groups that need clearing up. First off, these groups are not about fixing people, you don’t have to talk, you can just listen, and nor are they a substitute for 1-2-1 therapy.

 

Carl, a peer support worker from Hertfordshire, who spent nine years in recovery, says: “People coming into mental health services are often forced – by a family member, coming out of hospital or prison. People often don’t even know they are suffering when they’ve got an addiction. Lots are anti-groups. I was.”

 

“When I needed serious help, I did join a group. You don’t have to talk about anything. Attendance is a beautiful thing. You click with the stories and you don’t feel alone. You feel like you’re supporting each other.  Zoom makes it much easier – you can have the camera off.”


 

Stigma makes it hard to join a group, but the power of being in a group kickstarts recovery

- CARL

 

The success of a peer support group is directly linked to the ability of the facilitator to relate to the specific challenges and needs of members of the group. The Community Bubble heard that while a therapist should always be present to explain people’s problems and help them if they feel triggered by material, the peer trained facilitator with lived experience will be able to break down barriers with their own personal narratives and create a non-judgemental sharing space.

 

Carl says: “My job is to get people into a comfortable enough position to talk. You don’t have to talk though. Trauma shows itself differently in different people. A lot of this is about trust. It’s about who’s running the group, how they facilitate, boundaries and the chance to speak to someone afterwards if you get triggered is important.”

 

“Groups can work to help people, but they can also damage people if they are not run properly”, commented Jennifer, who works for a Bedford-based consumer health watchdog. “With a therapist present, they will learn something.”

 

“It’s about educating people as well. Group rules are needed,” said Amit, a peer tutor supervisor with the Bedfordshire and Luton Recovery College. “We’re not a substitute for therapy. We’re not dictating anything either.”

 

If you’re interested in joining a male peer support group with Recovery Code X, please contact External link opens in new tab or windowadmin@recoverycodex.org to register your interest. Further news and updates will appear on our website.


Thursday 11th November 2021



Making a Difference – A Complex PTSD psycho-educative Peer Support Group with Bedfordshire and Luton Recovery College


 



Recovery Code X is developing themes for a new series of psycho-educative workshops in 2022 with the External link opens in new tab or windowBedfordshire and Luton Recovery College following the success of ‘De-mystifying Complex PTSD’ – delivered by founder, Anna Bragga. If there is a particular topic relating to Complex PTSD that you would like to see covered, please contact admin@recoverycodex.org.

 

The one-and-half to two-hour sessions are totally free and conducted on Zoom with a maximum of 12 participants who have to fill in an online registration form to join. External link opens in new tab or windowClick here to see the current prospectus.

RECOVERY STRATEGIES BY PEER TUTORS with 'lived in' experience


Anyone who lives in Bedfordshire can come along and learn about a subject of interest and receive support from people with shared experiences.




The courses and workshops are focused on recovery strategies and psycho-educative support. Most of the peer tutors have ‘lived-in’ experience of a mental health challenge and experienced personal transformation. Their stories and accumulated knowledge can offer hope to the lost and hopeless, kinship to the lonely and disillusioned. This ethos makes the Recovery College stand out from other NHS services, helping sufferers feel understood, fostering a relaxed, safe environment for sharing.


Anna L. Bragga
 Anna says:


“I was able to draw on the research I’d done for our Project Educate 2021 Complex PTSD self-help factsheets in producing my Power Point presentation. My training in psychodynamic theory and experience of a variety of healing modalities probably helped add more depth.

 

“The peer tutor training and 1-2-1 supervision provided by the Bedfordshire and Luton Recovery College was fantastic. I feel privileged to have been given this opportunity and worked with a highly dedicated team. My supervisor was always at my side guiding me and building up my confidence until I had proven to myself that I could do it.”


FEEDBACK FROM THE GROUP

 

‘A very professional, educative and interactive course.

I learned a lot.’

   - T. Kore (Participant)

 

‘Very sensitive but amazing workshop. Although it triggered some past issues for me, it gave me awareness and tools how to cope and seek further help.’

   - Anon (Participant)

 

‘Evocative, professionally produced and life-affirming. You combine the creative with the psycho-educative. What you say resonates with people. It’s transformative with a liberatory undertone.’

   - Amit Shenmar, Bedfordshire and Luton Recovery College Co-ordinator


Register your interest in joining a new series of workshops about Complex PTSD with Anna and the Bedfordshire and Luton Recovery College by emailing admin@recoverycodex.org.




Friday 24th September 2021


Complex PTSD not sufficiently recognised in mental health sector

– ‘an ideological revolution is needed’

The NHS mental health system is going through major changes and Complex PTSD needs to be considered a priority, with easier GP access and more treatment options to help prevent an escalation of symptoms and provide a roadmap to recovery.

These are just some of the views exchanged by a group of representatives from Bedfordshire and Luton’s community of mental health and support professionals who convened at the online launch of Recovery Code X’s new mental health initiative, Project Educate 2021, a package of self-help resources aimed at helping people living with Complex PTSD. (Click here to see the webpage.)



CULTURAL STIGMA still a barrier to seeking help


People entering the mental health system are too often treated like ‘pariahs’ and made to feel as if their problems are their own fault, commented one delegate. ‘This adds to the burden of self-blame and shame so common among people with Complex PTSD.’

There were calls for an ‘ideological revolution’ with emotional intelligence and empathy, a gentle bedside manner, placed at the forefront of professional training.

There’s enough ‘self-stigma’ around mental health as it is, said another delegate. Domestic abuse breeds a lack of self-compassion and self-forgiveness, and physical health problems like ME, fibromyalgia, and HIV - high among African women, create additional layers of shame that don’t necessarily belong to the patient.


FAMILIES SHUNNING loved ones

in mental health crisis


In some cultures, families shun and ostracise you if you are experiencing a mental health crisis, to ‘save face’, said another delegate.

A representative from ACCM UK (Agency for Culture and Change Management) commented that Bedford Borough has over 100 dialects and some of these communities can’t read English, so Recovery Code X's written self-help guides will be of little use to them. “Verbal communication is the only way,” he said.

The Project Educate 2021 team agree that there’s more work to do, perhaps a whole new properly funded project, to effectively distribute the set of four Complex PTSD factsheets and podcasts to the people of Bedfordshire and Luton and raise awareness of the condition.

As one Recovery Code X volunteer put it: “The walking wounded are everywhere. Any retail outlet is a good place for leaflets, because they’ll have a percentage of very troubled people passing through their doors. And most companies know, it’s cool to care.”

For further information on Project Educate 2021 contact admin@recoverycodex.org



Wednesday 25th August 2021


Recovery Code X launches mental health initiative in bid to create awareness of Complex PTSD and reduce suffering during Covid19





After months of hard work and painstaking research, Bedford based community group, Recovery Code X, is pleased to announce the launch of a new mental health initiative aimed at raising awareness of Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Complex PTSD) across the county and providing self-help guidance to sufferers, their friends, family and partners.

Photo (left to right) Sarah Harris, Juanita Puddifoot, Sorrel Pindar, Mayor Dave Hodgson, Anna Bragga

Photography by Mark Deg & Izzy Smart


Project Educate 2021 Stage One, funded by the National Lottery Awards for All, comprises four colourful A4 double-sided self-help factsheets and four corresponding podcasts aimed at helping people who have experienced prolonged interpersonal trauma and abuse better understand their symptoms and provide information on NHS treatments and complementary therapies.

 

The initiative comes at a time when the country is facing unprecedented pressure on mental health services and many people without previous experience of mental health problems are seeing their mental health and wellbeing decline.


Recovery Code X founder, Anna Bragga, said:

 

“We’d like to thank Bedford Mayor, Dave Hodgson, for supporting our project. We contacted him back in March asking for help and were lucky to meet him to discuss our work and get his advice on several questions we had.

 

“Our next priority is getting the factsheets and podcasts out to the public. We’re organising an online forum to discuss this with mental health professionals and support workers in September. This initiative is about self-empowerment at a time when many people are feeling confused, anxious and disempowered. If we can get just one person on the path to healing and recovery, the work will all have been worthwhile, if we can get twelve, we’ll be ecstatic.”

 

People interested in finding out more about Complex PTSD can join Anna in a series of interactive online workshops next month with the Bedfordshire and Luton Recovery College.

 


Thursday 11th March 2021


Recovery Code X wins National Lottery award to help people with Complex PTSD get through Covid pandemic






Recovery Code X, the Bedford-based community

group set up to help people navigate a way to better
health after long term inescapable trauma or abuse
and raise awareness of Complex PTSD, has been
awarded a grant from the National Lottery Awards for All.

   

REACHING OUT to survivors


The money will be used to produce and distribute print and audio resources to help people knowingly or unknowingly struggling with Complex PTSD in Bedfordshire during the Covid19 pandemic.

 

Project Educate 2021 Stage One will see the creation and distribution of self-help factsheets and podcasts for survivors, their friends and families in a Bedfordshire-wide campaign.

 

The guides will address the following themes:

 

·  Understanding Complex PTSD – for survivors

·  Supporting recovery: Do’s and Don’t’s - for friends and families

·  NHS treatments available during Covid19 and how to access them.

·  Holistic therapies survivors can access and the symptoms they address.

 

Studies have shown that education can reduce self-blame, shame and other negative thought patterns. It can be also be a catalyst for change, and the exploration of treatment options.


Founder, Anna Bragga, said: “Project Educate 2021 builds on our previous work running peer support groups. Effective distribution of the self-help resources will be key to the success of the project. Anyone interested in stocking copies of the double-sided flyers or obtaining the podcasts should contact Recovery Code X .”                                       

Enquiries: email admin@recoverycodex.org