Better Than Well: New initiative supports and celebrates students in recovery

It is estimated that up to one in 20 people have overcome a problem with alcohol, drugs, gambling or other addictions. For young people in early abstinent recovery, education can form a crucial part of their recovery programme. However, the transition to University may present many challenges, especially combined with leaving family and friends and the social demands of campus life.

Dr Ed Day, an expert in addiction psychiatry at the Institute for Mental Health (IMH) and the Government's Drug Recovery Champion, and Masters student Luke Trainor (BA Political Science and Social Policy, 2020) are launching a pioneering programme to celebrate and support University of Birmingham students in recovery. Their goal is to inform and shape campus recovery nationwide.

A recovery programme developed and led by students

With mental health and wellbeing high on the agenda for universities, a new project is offering tailored support for University of Birmingham students recovering from addiction. Working closely with Wellbeing Services, the programme is based on a highly successful 'Collegiate Recovery Programme' popular in the USA. The programme, known as 'Better Than Well', offers peer-led support with students taking part in meetings to celebrate milestones, share concerns and build coping strategies. Additional activities will include drop-in services, 'dry' social activities, sport and fitness, and opportunities for volunteering and service to the local community. The programme is funded by a generous donation from the CrEdo Foundation, and will be designed by students, supporting their peers to maximise educational and social opportunities, and continuing a personal programme of recovery from addiction.

Support through education; how Luke is using his experiences to help others

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For Programme Manager Luke Trainor the wider benefits of being supported through education are key. 'My own experience of being homeless through to recovery meant starting at the University of Birmingham felt hugely daunting. There is still a lot of stigma around addiction, so I didn't discuss it with fellow students, and at the time there wasn't a network of support available. 

'A Pathways to Birmingham scholarship (formerly known as Access to Birmingham) really helped to remove some of the barriers for me to get to University, and this programme offers wider support for recovering students to stay in education, celebrate their recovery journey, broaden their knowledge and experience, and build the skills to successfully transition to life beyond graduation.'

Increasing awareness across our communities

As well as benefiting the students themselves, the project aims to help educate and inform the wider community, and test a model that could be replicated in universities nationwide. Luke explains: 'Students in recovery have huge potential, and have overcome huge challenges to get to where they are. A big part of this project will be educating the wider community about addiction and recovery, from neuroscience and psychology to social stigma. It's a fascinating subject, and the practical application can transform the lives of students both on campus in Birmingham and beyond.'

Please email us to find out more or to support the ‘Better Than Well’ project.