Mental Health Strategy Priorities and Workstreams

The Leeds Mental Health Strategy 2020-2025 is a strategy for people of all ages, laying out how the city plans to address mental health needs and promote good mental health among the people of Leeds.

The strategy has eight priorities, which focus on the areas people told us were most important to them. In the 2022 update three workstreams were added, the first of which focuses on Covid-19 recovery, in recognition that the pandemic experience has significantly worsened mental health and wellbeing for many people. Click on each priority and workstream below to find out more.


Priority 1: Mental Health Promotion and Prevention

Priority 1 aims to target mental health promotion and prevention within communities most at risk of poor mental health, suicide and self-harm.

Why is this a priority?

  • 16% of people in Leeds have sought help from a GP for anxiety and depression.
  • There are 16,000 young women in the city who may have self-harmed, with a higher proportion in more deprived areas.
  • One-third of people using mental health crisis services in Leeds hadn’t used any mental health services before.
  • A significantly high number of men take their own life. Rates of both suicide and self-harm admission (being cared for in hospital) are higher in more deprived areas of the city.

What’s happening in Priority 1?

Some of the things happening as part of the Priority 1 work include:

  • The MindWell and MindMate websites have been redesigned and are now easier to use, with lots of information for adults and young people on staying mentally healthy, and which services to go to for help.
  • The Leeds Strategic Suicide Prevention Group, made up of partners from Leeds City Council, the NHS and Third Sector, is updating the Leeds Suicide Prevention Action Plan to take into account the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more about suicide prevention in Leeds.
  • Getaway Girls is now offering peer support to young women aged 11-25.
  • The Men’s Suicide Prevention Grants Programme was set up, funded by Leeds City Council in partnership with Leeds Community Foundation. This fund supports local social activities for men in order to reduce social isolation.
  • Battle Scars is supporting people who self-harm.


Lockdown Life – A Short Film by The West Leeds Men’s Network

Funding from the Men’s Suicide Prevention Grants Programme helped Barca Leeds to develop the West Leeds Men’s Network. Men in the WLMN meet in a safe space in two weekly men’s groups to take part in activities, build social networks and friendships, talk about emotions in a healthy and respectful way and get support from other services where needed.

The West Leeds Men’s Network made this short film about living in lockdown.

MindWell: Finding Support in Leeds – Video Guide

The MindWell website was redesigned to make it easier to use, and to make it easier for people to find information and support for staying mentally healthy. This video shows how to find support in Leeds.

Priority 2: Reduce Over-representation of Diverse Communities in Crisis

Priority 2 aims to reduce the over-representation of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities who are admitted to hospital in crisis.

Why is this a priority?

  • People from BAME ethnic backgrounds are more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act when in mental health crisis compared to people of white backgrounds.
  • People in our diverse communities suffer increased mental health inequalities, that may be due to an increased risk of poor mental health and poorer access to mental healthcare, as well as poorer experiences of mental healthcare overall.

What’s happening in Priority 2?

Some of the things happening as part of the Priority 2 work include:

  • The Synergi Leeds Network was set up to allow partners from the NHS, Leeds City Council and Third Sector to work together in the city to reduce ethnic inequalities in mental healthcare. A specialist Children and Young People’s group has been set up.
  • Synergi Leeds has funded 15 community organisations to run psychological wellbeing programmes for all ages.
  • Two Creative Spaces events have been held, which were co-designed with communities to bring together service users, system leaders, practitioners and experts by experience to reflect on issues of intersectionality, and the impact of Black Lives mater and Covid-19 on mental health.


Being Black and Being Me – Youthwatch Leeds

In this film, young volunteers from Youthwatch Leeds and Black Lives Matter Leeds talk about mental health and what it’s like to be a young Black person in Leeds today.

Calm and Centred – Owen’s Story

Young Black man standing in front of a wall and some greenery, wearing an orange jacket and blue jeans.“I was in hospital due to COVID earlier this year. It was quite serious. I couldn’t breathe, I was on oxygen the whole time I was there. I honestly felt like an old man. Even when I got out, I couldn’t walk down the road without getting tired. 

A friend from church referred me to Calm and Centred. One of the main reasons I came was so that someone could understand my needs as a black man, and my culture – especially concerning death. My father passed away due to Covid less than a month before I was in hospital. I couldn’t attend his funeral; that was hard. And trying to make arrangements with the lockdown restrictions was difficult enough.

I was given support through one-to-one sessions and the Care (bereavement) Café. It provided a sounding board for what I was feeling. Getting the emotion out. It’s helped to talk about things, listening to others and understand the process of grief. It was useful to learn about that and how everyone deals with death differently. I’d like to be at a place where if I’m thinking about my dad or my loss, I don’t break down. I have some way to go but I’ll get there.”

Calm and Centred is a Black-led community interest company that delivers wellbeing services, healing therapies and self-help strategies in and around Chapeltown. Calm and Centred’s main focus is on crisis prevention, using therapy approaches and coping strategies to help people with low-level mental health issues and stop these issues escalating to a crisis. Calm and Centred is one of the Synergi Leeds grant holders.

The Journey to Racial Equality in Leeds Mental Health Services

Watch the trailer for the forthcoming documentary ‘The Journey to Racial Equality in Leeds Mental Health Services’, which features the partnership between Synergi and health and care organisations in Leeds. The film is described as “a powerful tribute to the work of the partnership and its contribution to supporting the city’s priorities of reducing health inequalities and making Leeds a mentally healthy city for all”.

Synergi is a national programme focusing on the intersection of racial justice and mental health. The Synergi-Leeds partnership was formed in 2020, and among other work focuses on a programme of grants available to community organisations to aid their work tackling ethnic inequalities in mental health.

Watch  The Journey to Racial Equality in Leeds Mental Health Services’ from Words of Colour on Vimeo.

Priority 3: Education, Training and Employment

Priority 3 aims to ensure education, training and employment is more accessible to people with mental health problems.

Why is this a priority?

  • People who are unemployed or have been unemployed have an increased risk of poor mental health.
  • People with ongoing mental health problems often struggle to find and maintain work that supports their wellbeing.
  • This puts people at risk of financial problems, perhaps further worsening their mental health.

What’s happening in Priority 3?

Some of the things happening as part of the Priority 3 work include:

  • Launch of the Developing You Programme, a course offering employability skills to people with mental health needs.
  • Specialist versions of Developing You for young people and people with a learning disability.
  • New primary care to employment hub pathway with specialist mental health employment workers.
  • Work Well Programme for 15-24 year olds who are not in employment, education or training.
  • WorkPlace Leeds, supporting people recovering from mental health difficulties.


Developing You – Lumia’s Story

Lumia talks about her experience on the Developing You Programme and how it has supported her.

Priority 4: Young People

Priority 4 aims to improve the experience for young people moving from children’s to adult mental health services, and develop new mental health services for 14-25 year olds.

Why is this a priority?

  • The children and young people population in Leeds is growing faster than the population of the city as a whole, especially in our communities that experience the greatest inequalities.
  • 10% of the 250,000 people in Leeds under the age of 25 are likely to have a mental health problem or need support with their emotional wellbeing

What’s happening in Priority 3?

Some of the things happening as part of the Priority 3 work include:

  • Transition model redesign


Priority 5: Being Trauma-Informed

Priority 5 aims to ensure that all services recognise the impact that trauma or psychological and social adversity has on mental health. This includes an understanding of how to respond to adverse childhood experiences, and embedding a ‘Think Family’ approach in all services.

Why is this a priority?

  • People who have had adverse experiences such as trauma and abuse at any point in life have an increased risk of poor mental health.
  • The various ways that trauma and abuse can affect people is not yet widely understood.

Priority 6: Timely, Compassionate Crisis Services

Priority 6 aims to make sure people can quickly get help from mental health crisis services, and when they do, receive a compassionate response.

Why is this a priority?

  • In 2019, Healthwatch published a report on what it is like to have a mental health crisis in Leeds.
  • The report found that many people did not know where to go or who to call if they were having a mental health crisis.
  • Some people had a good experience of crisis services and others had negative experiences.
  • People said the most important thing was having someone to listen to them when they were in crisis.

Priority 7: Older People

Priority 7 aims to make sure older people can access information, support and appropriate treatment that meets their mental health needs.

Why is this a priority?

  • Depression affects 22% of men and 28% of women aged 65+; anxiety disorders are estimated to affect 1 in 20 older people.
  • There are growing levels of mental health need among older people as a result of the pandemic.
  • 85% of older people with depression receive no help from the NHS.
  • Older people who self-harm are less likely to be referred to specialist mental health services, despite a higher risk of suicide.
  • Older people experience lower than expected referral rates to psychological therapies, despite evidence that suggests treatment is more effective for those aged 65+.
  • When older people ask for support with mental health needs, they are more likely to be prescribed medication than psychological therapies.

Priority 8: Better Health for People with Serious Mental Illness

Priority 8 aims to improve the physical health of people with serious mental illness.

Why is this a priority?

  • The life expectancy of someone with serious mental illness can be 15-20 years shorter than someone without a mental illness, and this is mostly caused by poor physical health.
  • The side effects of antipsychotic medication are associated with health conditions, including obesity, which is linked to poorer health. People with a serious mental illness are more likely to have a long-term condition such as diabetes than the general population.
  • 40.5% of people with a serious mental illness are estimated to smoke, putting them at risk of poor health.


Workstream 1: Covid-19 Recovery

Workstream 1 focuses on supporting people particularly impacted by Covid-19 to stay mentally healthy. This is important because evidence is showing that the pandemic has affected people’s mental health.

The pandemic has been a “major collective trauma”, which means an event that affects most people psychologically or emotionally in one way or another.

How it affects people varies from person to person, and from community to community, and can be affected by other stressful events in a person’s life, or past traumatic experiences.

Workstream 2: Community Mental Health Transformation

The Community Mental Health Transformation Programme is creating a new way of bringing together mental health services that respond to local people’s needs. It will remove barriers to access, so that people can access care, treatment and support as early as possible, and live as well as possible in their communities.

Workstream 3: Crisis Services Redesign

Workstream 3 was set up in response to the Healthwatch report on crisis services in Leeds, as a way to support Priority 6 by bringing together different partners to transform the way crisis services in Leeds work, so that people experiencing a mental health crisis have access to timely, compassionate and fair help.

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