The wider benefits of learning
Taking part in adult learning can have a positive impact on anyone's mental well-being. For people with a diagnosed mental health condition, developing their knowledge and skills can play an important role in their successful recovery.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect when I joined the group but I thought I would give
it a go. I’m glad that I took part. I enjoyed the reading aloud and contributing to
the discussions. By being part of the group I realised that I am able to do things
I thought I wasn’t that good at (reading and interacting with other people).
I’m pleased I took part … I’ve benefited in the confidence area … I do find it difficult to interact
with people and be part of a group, and this has definitely helped. I went downhill
after I finished therapy, but this has helped a lot."
Taken from 'Health and Well-being' by the Transformation Fund 2010
How does learning improve mental health and wellbeing?
A common misunderstanding is that people with mental health difficulties need courses just for them or that are run by health professionals or are ‘therapeutic'.
In fact, studies show that any kind of positive learning experience can improve people’s mental health – including for people with complex mental health difficulties. The important thing is that people need access to good teaching and learning opportunities.
If a course is well taught, and people are able to get the right support if and when they need it, then any subject and any type of learning can boost mental well-being, be it in science, media studies or book-keeping. Any learning can be beneficial to mental health: not only classroom based courses but distance, work-based or family learning.
Learning can give people:
- A sense of purpose and achievement
- Increased confidence and self-esteem
- A new feeling of identity - as a student rather than a 'service user'
- A new social network and opportunities to make friends
- Hope for the future
- Increased self-awareness
- Skills to build resilience and cope with everyday life
- Better employment prospects
Many new learners state that building their confidence is more important to them than academic learning objectives. To help promote a healthy learning environment, NIACEdefinition and the Learning and Skills Council have produced a guide on confidence and self esteem in adult learning.
The New Economics Foundation recently published 5 Ways to Well-Being. The simple steps were based on extensive research, and ‘Keeping Learning’ was at the heart of their findings.
The Centre for the Wider Benefits of Learning has a wide range of evidence based information about the social benefits of learning.
The Transformation Fund was a project that supported innovative informal adult and community learning projects across England. Its report on Health and Well-Being highlights the benefits of life-long learning to individuals and the communities they live in.
The University of London has published a study called The Social and Personal Benefits of Learning. which covers both compulsory, post sixteen and adult education.
The Inquiry into the Future of Lifelong Learning investigated Learning and Happiness and Poverty Reduction and Lifelong Learning. Social deprivation and mental health problems are closely linked. By highlighting how learning and skills can improve the financial health of our communities, the report's findings are also important for individual well-being.