Stephen Fry tweets to save Leeds mental health crisis centre

Stephen Fry today joined Jon Snow and Susie Orbach in speaking out in support of Leeds Crisis Centre.

The TV presenter, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, added his voice to the centre’s supporters in the hope of persuading Leeds council to reconsider axing its crisis counselling service.

Leeds Crisis Centre has been providing emergency counselling to thousands of desperate Leeds residents for more than 20 years, and won council awards just last year.

Fry tweeted a message of support for the campaign to his 2.2 million Twitter followers, saying: “Leeds’ unique crisis counselling service is first for the chop. Don’t let it go quietly, it saves lives. http://bit.ly/dJJhs2 #mentalhealth”.

Before his intervention, the campaign website had received 2,500 hits, by 3.30pm, that figure had more than doubled to 5,393.

A former service user of threatened Leeds Crisis Centre, spoke out: “I had never had any kind of mental illness, didn’t know much about depression and wasn’t really aware that anxiety or psychosis existed. I never thought I was the ‘type’ to get depression.

“But I had unusually severe post-natal depression after the birth of my second child and planned suicide one sleepless night by jumping up on the roof of my house, ending up spending two months in a psychiatric mother and baby unit.

“In the months leading up to my hospitalisation as I was finding it increasingly difficult to cope, the Leeds Crisis Centre’s staff members were extremely supportive, and the fact that I was able to access counselling within 24 hours of making an initial phone-call was particularly helpful.

“I will always be especially grateful to Leeds Crisis Centre for helping our family through this difficult time, and really can’t recommend this service highly enough.”

Despite the service offering life-saving support of this kind to thousands who would otherwise remain on waiting lists, the council is currently considering only the option of complete closure of the service.

Councillor Yeadon, executive board member with responsibility for adult social care at the council, said: “The council is currently dealing with a massive budget challenge as a result of the Government’s spending cuts, and have some really tough and painful decisions to make as we attempt to make savings of GBP150 million over the next four years.

“We have a duty to protect the most vulnerable people in the city. However, providing a counselling service is not one of our statutory functions. The NHS Crisis Resolution Service and Home Treatment Team provide crisis support and are available out of hours. A range of other counselling services are available in the city.

“We believe we may be the only council that provides such a service, and are talking to our NHS colleagues about how their continuing investment in improving access to psychological therapies (IAPTs) and other counselling services can meet the needs of people in these circumstances, as happens across the rest of the country.”

James Taylor, an independent psychotherapist, challenged this on a letter to councillors that has been reprinted on the crisis centre’s blog site, saying: “It is quite simply untrue to suggest that there is any duplication of services by the Crisis Resolution Team or IAPT; this assertion could only imaginably be made by individuals who have no interest in or understanding of the services they are describing and even less of the people who use them.

“Both the Crisis Resolution team and IAPT refer to the crisis centre, which invites the question ‘why would they do this if services were being duplicated?'”

The campaign’s organisers are asking people who have used or valued the Crisis Centre to email their story to [email protected]

Contributions can be anonymously. Read the blog and follow the campaign at http://saveleedscrisiscentre.wordpress.com.