Visitors can use the house as time out from a difficult situation or a home environment where they may feel unsafe or that may exacerbate their difficulties. Visitors can relax in a homely environment and can also gain one to one support from the team of Crisis Support Workers.
At Dial House we have a family room, so parents in crisis can bring children with them. We also transport visitors to and from the house by taxi, to make their journey safe and comfortable.
History of the Organisation
The Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service was set up in 1999 by a group of service users, who had campaigned for five years to develop the service. Initially, the service was run in partnership with Social Services, becoming a registered charity in 2001. The service was set up to be a place of sanctuary, which was an alternative to hospital admission and statutory services for people in acute mental health crisis. The service was established, and continues to be governed and managed, by people with direct experience of mental health problems. We have our own unique perspectives on what it feels like to be in crisis and what helps and does not help. We have developed our service based on this knowledge and experience, while responding to the needs articulated by our visitors and callers.
We are part of a network of mental health services in Leeds. We liaise with and undertake joint work with other services, while maintaining our identity as an innovative, service user led voluntary sector organisation.
Philosophy of the Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service
Each individual has their own experience of crisis. The causes and impact of crisis will be different for each person. We believe that people are expert in knowing their own situations and with the right kind of attention and support can find their own solutions.
Our definition of crisis is…
People have told us that some of the characteristics of crisis are:
An overwhelming experience
More than the person can deal with
Not one’s normality
Having nowhere to turn
Having exhausted all one’s coping strategies.
Crisis is sometimes described as a time of change or a turning point in one’s life: a period of breakthrough or breakdown.
Crisis can be a liberating or learning experience.
People in crisis should have a range of choices for dealing with a crisis. Our services may be used as an alternative to statutory services, or may complement involvement in mainstream services. We believe that to deal with a crisis, a person must feel safe, listened to, and connected to other people.We want to know about the person, not the label they have been given.People in crisis are not essentially different from anyone else and everyone in his or her life will experience crisis at one time or another.
We recognise that the city of Leeds is made up of many different groups, traditions and cultures. We respect and are responsive to the fact that social factors in a person's life shape both their understanding of crisis and their way of dealing with crisis. We also recognise that deprivation and oppression not only impact on people's ability to cope with distress, but can be the cause of distress.
Therapeutic Approach of Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service
The paid staff within the organisation are qualified or qualifying counsellors, or receive training in the Person Centred Approach. This is the primary therapeutic approach we use.
The key principles of this are:
The person providing support demonstrates empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard towards the client
A belief in the actualisation tendency – that is, a belief that people do the best they can in the circumstances they are in and have an inherent tendency to try to achieve their full potential
The principle of non directivity. Work is led by the client, in the belief that they have the resources within themselves to find their own solutions.
We also draw on other therapeutic approaches, such as Solution Focused Brief Therapy. We provide a compassionate, respectful, empathic and consistent service, with the aim of supporting visitors to identify their own solutions to their difficulties.
Within both Dial House and Connect, we work with people in acute states of crisis. Many of our visitors are suicidal and/or self harm and we are skilled and experienced within these areas of work. Over the time we have been open, we have successfully worked with people who have been excluded from other services, or who other services have been unable to engage.
Refuge (by Hans-Werner Sahm)
10 years on Leeds Survivor Leed Crisis Service has grown from strength to strength and has a very special place in the hearts of those who visit and work there. It stands as an ideal that should one day be available to all regardless of postcode, the present manager Fiona Venner travels the UK giving lectures on the unique philosophy and practice of Dial House. The project has been awarded several highly prized awards including being the winner of the Gaurdian Public Sevice Award in 2006.
For more details contact firstname.lastname@example.org
0113 260 9328
Here is the article in the Guardian newspaper about Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Services Public Services Award.
06 Dec 2006: The Guardian
Public services award: The client knows best
Innovation and progress, customer service winner: Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service This user-led service offers a non-residental safe house for people experiencing a mental health crisis.
Andrew Cole reports:
Everyone who turns up at the door of the Leeds Survivor Led Crisis Service on the outskirts of the city has one thing in common: they are at the end of their tether. All will be facing acute mental crisis, ranging from attempted suicide to self-harm and family break-up. And most will already be feeling bruised by their experiences of the statutory services.
What they find at the crisis service is very different. For a start, nearly all the managers, frontline staff and volunteers have experienced mental health problems themselves. Just as importantly, the therapeutic approach they follow is based on the radical notion that the users know what's best for them.
The principle tenets of this philosophy are "unconditional positive regard", "actualisation" and "non-directivity". But, says project manager Fiona Venner, this simply means treating people with warmth, kindness and honesty. "Rather than telling people what to do or giving advice or saying 'I'm the expert', it's very much about supporting people to bring out and develop their inner resources. People ultimately know what's best for them."
So clients will be offered one-to-one support from the team of crisis support workers. They can also take part in the weekly group sessions. But if they simply want to listen to music, have a bath or make a meal in the adjoining kitchen, that's fine too.
"We give people a lot of freedom and choice. Many of the people have not always had a lot of experience of feeling in control in their lives." Venner says.
This freedom even extends to accepting individuals' self-harming, which the team see as a coping mechanism in the face of unbearable distress. Nevertheless, there is a limit to the permissive approach. If someone is judged to be at real risk of suicide, the team will intervene, as they will if they learn about adult or child abuse. But this only happens rarely.
Between 30% and 50% of all clients who come to the service are suicidal, and many have actually tried to take their lives. "But if someone is here, there's always hope," says Venner. "Part of them might want to die, but part of them wants to live and that's the part that's with us."
The service was set up in 1999 as a result of a campaign by users to find an alternative to hospital for people in acute mental health crisis. After initially working in partnership with social services it became an independent charity in 2001, but is still largely funded by the local health trust and social services.
In the last year the numbers attending the service have shot up from fewer than 250 to around 1,000, mainly as a result of the decision to extend the opening hours - now from 6pm to 2am between Friday and Sunday. The service provides a well-used telephone helpline every night from 6pm-10.30pm. There is also a family room for parents in crisis and users are offered a taxi service if required. Importantly, everyone comes of their own volition. Most self-refer, though a few are referred by GPs, A&E or specialist services such as the city's crisis resolution team.
The pattern of attendance varies hugely. Many have very chaotic lives and will return again and again before moving on. Others will turn up once and that will be enough. Sadly, high demand means many have to be turned away, so visitors are prioritised according to their level of desperation and isolation. "If they're in a hostel or have friends or family, they may be safer than someone who's completely on their own. But," Venner adds, "there is a huge amount of unmet need."
She has no doubt the service has kept many people out of hospital and gives them safety and sanctuary when they are at their lowest ebb. "People often say to us: I would be dead if you hadn't been there," she observes.
Despite the volatile nature of many people's problems, there has not been a single violent incident in the service's seven-year history, says Venner. "People love the service and are very respectful of it and don't want to jeopardise it. The fact that we provide genuine kindness, warmth, affection and respect seems to mark us out as different from other services."
Dial House; A bit of Backgrounnd to the building.
Form; Leodis, A photographic archive of Leeds.