Helping to ease mental health crisis through education at Leeds Recovery College

L-R Simon Burton, Leeds Recovery College Development manager; Robert King, Community Links  Co-facilitator, Creative Writing; Tony Gibson, The Space  Co-facilitator, MAAEZ; Dan Bernstein,  Touchstone  Recovery College cours contributor.
L-R Simon Burton, Leeds Recovery College Development manager; Robert King, Community Links Co-facilitator, Creative Writing; Tony Gibson, The Space Co-facilitator, MAAEZ; Dan Bernstein, Touchstone Recovery College cours contributor.
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A NEW way of supporting people with mental health problems, could ease waiting lists and help treat those who need support most using education, rather than medication or therapy.

One in four adults are likely to experience a mental health problem in a year and it is thought less than a quarter of those seek help to cope with their struggle.

Julie Booth

Julie Booth

Leeds Recovery College, which is launching over the next few weeks, takes an educational approach offering workshops and training courses, which focus on living mentally and physically well.

Sessions are based in centres across Leeds, including community hubs at Lovell Park, Stocks Hill and Vale Circles in Beeston. People can attend without any referral or diagnosis.

They are run like any other college, providing education as a route to recovery and not as a form of therapy.
Courses are co-devised and co-delivered by people who have experienced mental illness alongside mental health professionals, including doctors and pharmacists.

Simon Burton, development manager at Leeds Recovery College, said: “Our courses aren’t therapy, but they are education and can help you to learn about mental health, work out what keeps you well, and find ways to live better.

Julie Booth with husband Steve.

Julie Booth with husband Steve.

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“If you went to your GP then medication or therapy might be offered but here we feel education is key to understanding your mental health.

“People are welcome to bring a friend or partner or support with them to learn together for example about anxiety or depression.

“The other side of it is to share your experience, so many of the team have experienced mental health issues themselves and are now facilitators, but can contribute and help others.”

A session at Leeds Recovery College

A session at Leeds Recovery College

Courses are open to all adults who live, work or study in the city. A mental health diagnosis is not needed.

There are existing recovery colleges around the UK and many more worldwide, but this is a first for Leeds.

“There is no pressure to disclose your own story or any other details,” says Simon.

The initial sessions are being launched this month and during October.

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The college also welcomes carers, family, friends and health and care staff and recognises these crucial roles.

The courses are free to attend and information is kept simple, but they are packed full of useful information and handy tips, which is aimed to make a difference to people in their life, work or study.

The Leeds Recovery College is funded mainly by the NHS, and led by the Leeds and York Partnership NHS FOundation Trust, with support from 14 additional organisations across Leeds.

For more details search for Leeds Recovery College online or see HERE

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Mental health facts from MIND

One in four adults and one in ten children are likely to have a mental health problem in any year.

This can have a profound impact on the lives of tens of millions of people in the UK, and can affect their ability to sustain relationships, work, or just get through the day.

The economic cost to the UK is £70 to £100 billion a year.

Equally challenging is the estimate that only about a quarter of people with a mental health problem receive ongoing treatment.


Former teacher Julie Booth, 57, experienced a breakdown and now works as a facilitator at the Leeds Recovery College. She told Alison Bellamy her story.

“In 2015 I had a breakdown. This was not due to a specific thing, but a few things that all came together to lead to me not coping and crashing badly.

As a lovely counsellor once said to me ‘It was finally too many drops in the bucket’.

"We had experienced a painfully drawn out illness and eventual bereavement of a family member which has affected my husband and therefore me, very badly.

"As a teacher, I had also changed job roles and was trying to get up and running full time in a classroom with a new curriculum and management responsibility in a school under the pressures of OFSTED ‘requires improvement’.

"I was a teacher, on the senior leadership team and the special educational needs coordinator, with a lot of responsibility.

"Also, possibly the biggest contributory factor looking back, I travelled through menopause and it affected my sleep, ability to organise myself, my physical well-being and my moods dreadfully.

"I learned later than many women struggle very badly at this time and often end up with mental health issues. Although I have now identified that I have always had some difficulties with my mental health I feel that menopause pushed me over the edge in the end.

"I left work with stress and ended up requesting a sabbatical, but eventually decided it was not right for me to return so handed in my notice.

"I met Simon Burton through attending a WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) course in 2016. We kept in touch and when he said he was setting up the Recovery College in Leeds I was keen to be involved. I have since helped to co-facilitate a WRAP course in Leeds.

"Simon has put together a brilliant prospectus of courses to run over the next year. It is exciting to look at the material being offered as I feel that there is so much of value to be shared.

"Hopefully as people learn and get better they are then perfectly placed to help others in the same situations.

"The courses are not teacher and learner more a case of facilitators helping others to learn the skills they have learnt to work on their own recovery.

"It is a safe place to examine what we do, how we can change, how we can improve our quality of life and learn to work on improving our mental health.

"Mental health is sadly something you often don’t learn about until you are suffering with stress or depression.

"Recovery College gives you a toolkit of wellness tools to help you stay well and is therefore life changing. I wish it was something that was taught in schools and colleges to prevent people from having breakdowns and suffering so badly. It is so valuable and having been through the process it is my wish to reach as many people as possible to prevent them suffering alone. I tend to be very verbal about all that I have learnt and about my breakdown so that people can see that it is something you can survive and come through with much greater understanding and ability to cope.”