My name is Raf, I’m 26 years old. I’m from North London. I’m currently a student on the mental health recovery and social inclusion Master’s program at the University of Hartfordshire. I’m also the expert by experience lead for Cygnet healthcare and my role is to ensure that service users have a voice at every level of the organization, at every 136 of our services nationally. My corporate governance director kind of suggested that I should go for some education, I always talk about because of my kind of upbringing, I never really had an opportunity to pursue any education. And in my culture, education is really important. So there was the whole kind of family pressure, and also the kind of society that we live in I feel that education is very valued. It’s like a, there’s a kind of pathway, from school to university and then into employment. And that’s something I kind of missed out on. The admissions policy was was very easy. It’s very simple, very straightforward, in terms of having the right support, and being able to fill out any applications, you’ve got the online team there, but you’ve also got specific individuals that you can contact, you know, if you got stuck or anything like that. But it’s very simple, considering that it’s something I hadn’t done before in particular, I thought to be honest, I thought the task was going to be a lot more difficult. coming on to a master’s program without any kind of formal education or qualifications, you know, not even GCSE or a levels, let alone an undergrad, it was very anxiety inducing to kind of be given a task to do, but the task was was fairly reasonable. And it also gave me the opportunity to decide whether this is something I want to pursue and at the same time, it probably gave the University the opportunity to be able to see my own skills and if I’m able to be a candidate on the course, I think what was really interesting about the course was learning about the benefits of some of the things that I already knew are good, for example, peer support workers, I allways knew peer support workers were the right thing to do. But I didn’t actually know there was research that demonstrated that people actually spend less bad days, for instance, in services as a result of using peer support workers. And and just having that knowledge of the impact of the work that we’re doing. We were doing this work for quite a few years and you know, experts by experience lived experience peer support. Recovery, as a whole isn’t something that’s specifically new. But I guess I lacked that knowledge about the impact it was actually having, and the awareness that was out there, and the research that had already taken place. So it’s been very illuminating. I often say that the the mental health recovery and social inclusion course, is a course, that lives up to its name, because, you know, it really does promote social inclusion, it does promote recovery. And it gives someone meaning it gives someone purpose, it gives someone something to wake up for, you know, obviously, you’ve got the bragging rights of saying that I am doing a masters but it’s a community thing aswell and going back to what I was talking about in terms of culture, you know, it’s, it’s really given my family, something to be proud of. But more importantly, it’s given me a lot of insight into the theory of a lot of my practical experiences, both the lived experience element and the professional experience element, the theory and the kind of why behind it was always missing. And it’s really filled in that gap. A lot of what we’ve looked at on the course, isn’t only specifically about mental health, learning disabilities, substance misuse, we look at things like homelessness. And I guess the social inclusion element really brings a lot of other subjects out, aside from solely just mental health, which I think is positive, because it gives us the opportunity to see how societal issues are inextricably linked to one another. I’m most proud of being able to get onto the master’s program, to be honest of you, I mean, you know, getting employment wasn’t as difficult as I thought, my own recovery wasn’t as difficult as I thought although it was all very difficult, I can assure you that. But being able to get onto a master’s program without having any kind of formal qualifications, being able to get this far, and, you know, getting the kind of marks that that I’ve been able to get has really been been not just a confidence booster. But you know, it’s also taught me so much and been able to improve my own practice, outside of the university, not only into my workplace, but also into my life, we often forget that a lot of what we learn, influences our decisions and the way we look at things, even outside of studying outside of the workplace, in our personal lives. And that’s really important for me. I think a lot of the time when people are considering a career in mental health, it’s because they may actually have a link to mental health, whether it’s an interest or whether it’s a friend or family member or an experience that they may have had. Or it could just be, you know that that you’re a nice person that you want to help people. I’ll say it’s not an industry that you want to come into, if you want to become a billionaire. It’s an industry that you want to come into where you want to help people or you want to make a difference. And it’s about finding what you’re passionate about, and actually leading on to that. And this course gives you the opportunity to really be able to think what do I want to do? Could I become a psychiatrist? Could I become a nurse? And could I go and work in a community service? And could I go into academia, it’s really gives you the opportunity to really explore what you want to do.