When a mental health crisis strikes, often the first place people turn in search of help is A&E.
The city’s emergency departments deal with dozens of patients every year who are experiencing emotional distress, from those who have self-harmed to suicide attempts.
But one place in Leeds is now offering a new lifeline to people during a mental health crisis as an alternative to A&E.
Tucked away beyond the eastern side of Leeds city centre, the Well-Bean Cafe offers one-to-one support, practical advice and a social space for those with nowhere else to turn.
The late-night cafe is open every Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 6pm until midnight, based in Lincoln Green, and visitors can also enjoy a shower and hot food if they are hungry.
The YEP is today showcasing the vital work going on at the cafe during Mental Health Awareness Week, as part of our #SpeakYourMind campaign.
We are also looking at how the service is relieving pressure on hospitals, on the fourth day of the YEP’s Urgent Care Week series.
Set up in November 2016 to help divert people who don’t require emergency medical attention away from A&E, the NHS-funded and charity-run service supported 40 people who visited the cafe in the first three months after opening.
But from January to March this year, the number of people coming through its doors for help has gone up tenfold, as 428 people visited the late-night cafe.
“It really helps, because night-time is when I often struggle the most and feel isolated,” said Chris, a regular visitor at Well-Bean.
Struggling mental health and self-harming, Chris turned to A&E 13 times in 2015 - before the cafe was set up .
His visits to the emergency department lessened over the last two years, as he began accessing support, talking therapies, learned coping strategies and attending weekly one-to-one support sessions at the cafe.
He has not needed to visit A&E once this year, and credits much of that to the help he has found at the cafe.
“In 2015, I had several hospital admissions but this year I haven’t had any,” he said.
“The staff are helpful and person-centred at the cafe, they are not clinical. They just focus on what is going on for you at that time. They understand it a bit more than at A&E.”
Chris said it offered “a safe place” as an alternative to people going to A&E when in a mental health crisis.
“This is keeping me out of hospital and reducing my self harming incidents,” he said.
“You get offered one-to-one support if you need it and the staff are great. It’s a really good out of hours service.
“At A&E you have to go through a rigmarole but none of that happens at the cafe.
“I would definitely recommend it to others.”
Based at the Lincoln Green Community Centre, Well Bean is run by Leeds charity Touchstone, in partnership with the Leeds Survivor-Led Crisis Service. It aims to provide a quick response to those struggling with mental health and in crisis.
Visitors could range from people who are socially isolated, depressed, are in emotional distress, or those who have experienced violence or trauma, or are at risk of self-harm or suicide.
More than 1,650 people have called on the cafe for help since it was first launched in 2016.
A true out-of-hours service, it also welcomed more than 60 people through its doors across Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, and New Year in 2017.
It is also open on bank holidays.