“Life happens and things happen in people’s lives. If you get some work done, great. If you don't, there'll be another time. You'll be ready for it. We look at it on a person-centred basis. A supportive environment is everything.”
So says Adrienne Kilkenny, CEO of Threshold Training Network who have been supporting people to return to work and education since 1995. Based in Tallaght in Dublin, their training programmes help people through “the changing landscape of mental health recovery.” They blend wellness with learning to help people back on the road to recovery and the world of work.
The people who come to them, Adrienne says, are in need of “routine and structure.” They might be recovering from addiction and “are in a space of wellness, but they just need to move in their lives and find direction. And we help other people who might have mental health difficulties.”
Adrienne says their services have contributed “wonderful transformations” in people’s lives.
Adrienne tells Brian that “one of the pillars of mental health recovery is connections and community.”
Threshold offers learning that is led by the person’s experiences and what they need. She says that while mainstream training “may not have the time and the capacity” to take a person’s individual needs into account, this is a priority at Threshold Training Network.
“If someone isn't feeling great, for example, it could be to do with the medication they are on.”
And at Threshold Training Network, “our trainers are aware that participants have specific needs, and this presentation is approached in a supportive manner."
This is one of the characteristics of community education. According to the Charter for Community Education, it is “learner-centred, flexible, supportive, and developmental.”
Community education offers learning in local areas that prioritises people’s health and wellbeing as well as their education and skills. We’ve developed a new Community Education Map to show the thousands of community education groups and organisations offering these services in cities, towns, and villages across the island of Ireland.
Threshold Training Network offers two strands of learning. One is a part-time strand through a Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) Level 3 course, which runs five mornings a week. People can then progress to a QQI Level 4 course, which is two longer days.
“Throughout [the training], we weave wellness,” Adrienne says. “We have lovely morning activities, check-ins, and meditation. And then when they're doing their module work, for instance, if they're doing, say, personal interpersonal skills or career preparation, all the trainers here are very aware of mental health and the requirements when working with it. The result is that everybody is nurtured and treated well.”
Threshold has a dedicated staff support team who are aware of mental health challenges.
“We encourage our trainers to gauge their class. We might have somebody here with high anxiety who might be feeling overwhelmed. The trainers reach out to the support staff to help that person identify what they need and we then make sure that person is supported.”
One of their participants was a man in his fifties who was struggling. Through engaging with the work experience support at Threshold Training Network, he rediscovered his interest in writing.
“He used to be in journalism at one time in his life, and through our work experience programme, he got a little bit of work with the local paper and this reignited his passion for writing. He wrote some local stories, maybe about a local band that was playing, or a restaurant that was opening. We were lucky to secure a donation of a laptop for him because he had an interest in keeping it up, and we wanted to encourage that. He continued to get freelance work with [the paper].”
Later, he got in touch with Adrienne again. “He said, Adrienne, I want to pay back all the kindness and everything that Threshold Training Network has done for me. I want to feature you in my article that I write every week.
“It’s called, ‘Celebrating the Community’, where they take a local person and celebrate their impact on the community. He featured Steven, who has worked with Threshold Training Network since 2010. We had the photographer come in, take the photos, and the whole lot. We were thrilled. Steven shared about how he loves what he does and the article was well received by all our supporters.
We have so many testimonials from people who have attended, saying that Threshold Training Network has helped them in their recovery from mental illness. And here we have this past participant who has come full circle and is now writing about us. You can’t get better than that!”
Threshold Training Network is just one of hundreds of organisations who are members of AONTAS. Brian is visiting our members right across the island of Ireland. Want to learn more? Get in touch with Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org
We've just published new research into mental health for FET (Further Education and Training) learners in Ireland. This new report focuses on the challenges that FET learners are dealing with at the moment. It looks at the fantastic supports some learners are receiving, and the need for even more supports in order to help learners have better mental health and a better experience of education. Read the report here.