Pioneering mental health project celebrates 10 year anniversary
Converge, a partnership between York St John University and mental health service providers in the region, is celebrating 10 years of offering free, high quality educational opportunities to those who have experienced mental health issues.
Established in 2008 by Dr Nick Rowe MBE, Associate Professor in Theatre at York St John University and Director of Converge, the innovative project offers a range of arts and sport courses in a university setting to local people who use mental health services in the York region. Converge has since helped over 1,000 people and seen a 30-60 per cent reduction in dependence on local mental health services.
An anniversary event, to be held at York St John University, will feature performances from the Converge Choir and Converge students to celebrate the impact the programme has had on improving the mental health of Converge students over the last 10 years. One of the first Converge participants who studied theatre and music and subsequently joined the Converge Choir said: “Converge helped me with my mental health recovery and also taught me to pursue my dreams and work with people who really inspire me.”
Commenting on the success of Converge, Dr Rowe said:
“The development of Converge has progressively demonstrated the potential of offering educational opportunities to people who use mental health services, delivered by students and staff and held on a university campus. This has become the key principle which remains at the heart of Converge. Born of a unique collaboration between the NHS and York St John University, Converge continues to deliver educational opportunities for people with mental health problems and has now been piloted by partnerships in Leeds, Newcastle and in Oregon, USA.
“Converge develops projects and partnerships which are driven by innovation and best practice. The result is twofold: a rich and exciting educational opportunity for people with mental health problems alongside authentic and practical work experience for university students.”
Professor Karen Stanton, Vice Chancellor of York St John University added:
“Nick’s passion and vision has inspired support from across the University to offer a range of Converge courses that provide life-changing opportunities to those who truly benefit from the power of education.”
After 10 years of developing the successful Converge model, Dr Rowe was recognised in the 2018 New Year Honour’s list with an MBE for services to mental health service users. His work is an example of the considerable contribution universities make to the communities they serve and of the role York St John University is playing in improving adult and young people’s mental health. The University recently hosted the first international higher education mental health conference, Releasing Potential, to showcase and share the sector’s contribution to mental health practice and research.