Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service

Annika Howard
Teenage girl on mobile phone

Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service (LSLCS) is a mental health charity based in Leeds. They provide out-of-hours support to people in acute mental health crisis with the aim of reducing hospital admissions, A&E visits, and use of statutory crisis services.

One of the ways they do this is through their Connect telephone helpline, a service that provides emotional support and information for people in distress. The service recently expanded to open Teen Connect in June 2018. We talked to Theresa Clarke, Connect Helpline Manager, about the new Teen Connect service.

What is the Connect Helpline?

The Connect Helpline came to life in 2001 in the attic rooms of Dial House, an 18th-century house in East Leeds, as part of LSLCS. LSLCS was set-up in 1999 by a group of campaigning mental health service users, who wanted a non-medical, non-diagnostic approach to people in crisis outside of a clinical environment. LSLCS provides compassionate, trauma-informed, person-centred support to the people of Leeds, West Yorkshire.

Theresa says: “Our survivor-led ethos means that we believe that everyone is their own expert. Many of the team have our own experiences of crisis and understand the benefits of having a non-judgemental, safe and compassionate space to talk. LSLCS believes that people do the best they can, in the circumstances, they are in, with the resources they have and that people are innately motivated towards growth. The Connect Helpline team strive to provide non-directive emotional support to callers for up to one hour every night and is staffed on each shift by a Connect Coordinator, two Connect Helpline Workers and up to three volunteers”.

Volunteering on Connect

Theresa describes how she got involved with LSLCS, "My own journey with the Connect Helpline started in late 2007 when I joined the organisation as a Connect Volunteer. I had just left my job in customer service to start a counselling studies degree course and needed voluntary work in a similar field. I had always been curious about the Dial House building and when I found out what they did, I was incredibly interested in being involved. I felt I identified with a sense of being a ‘survivor’ and having had my own on-going experience of emotional distress most of my life, I felt really at home on the Connect Volunteer training. After joining the paid staff team in 2009, I became the Connect Helpline Manager in late 2017, my 10-year anniversary of being with LSLCS!"

Many of LSLCS’s paid staff team started, like Theresa, through volunteering, including the new Teen Connect team.

Teen Connect

Teen Connect was set up for young people aged 13 and over in Leeds to access emotional and mental health support, with a particular focus on 13–16-year-olds in crisis. Teen Connect is open 6 pm – 2 am, seven nights a week and can provide an hour of support to teens either by telephone or via the online chat service.

The project is a partnership between LSLCS and The Market Place, who offer a range of services to young people in Leeds including one to one support, counselling, group work and a drop-in. The two organisations share a similar ethos, with The Market Place bringing their expertise in working with young people and LSLCS bringing theirs in trauma-informed crisis support. Teen Connect has been funded by Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group for an initial 12 month period.

Theresa says, "I feel very committed to our work with teens as I know from lived experience that it is often during childhood and in particular the teenage years, that mental health and emotional support can be exacerbated. It’s a time of huge change physically, mentally, emotionally and when accessing support can be difficult and daunting. These are often the years where self-harm develops out of a desperate need to cope and stay alive at times where teens may feel their future is very bleak. The most startling research figures have shown that there has been a huge increase in self-harm in teenage girls, in particular around age 15”.

A recent research study by Manchester University found a “68% rise in rates of self-harm among girls aged 13 to 16 since 2011” (Morgan et al., 2017, BMJ). Theresa adds, “It feels important for the teenagers of Leeds to have an outlet for their feelings, where they can ring or text to arrange support or visit online chat to talk to one of the Teen Connect team and hopefully learn that by having a safe space to talk, that they are not alone and these feelings can become more manageable."

Service Development and Outreach

Theresa’s Connect team are now working hard at promoting the Teen Connect to other services in the area who support teens, including local NHS teams, West Yorkshire Police and Social Care, as well as schools, offering meetings with staff teams, and facilitating workshops and assemblies with teens themselves.

Getting in Touch

Teen Connect is open 364 nights of the year (only closing one day in September for the annual staff away day) 6 pm – 2 am. Support can be accessed by calling the Connect Helpline on 0808 800 1212, texting 07715661559 or going to the online chat option at www.teenconnect.org.uk

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