Finding ways to live better - meet the Leeds Recovery College team

Recovery focusing on resilience

This month, the Leeds Recovery College is three years old. As with all services in LYFPT, the last couple of years have brought many challenges, but lots of opportunity too.

The college opened in 2019 and is one of around 85 in the UK. Adopting a model first developed in the US, the College focuses on using learning and education as a route to understanding mental illness and encouraging people to work toward improving their own wellbeing.

Our ethos encourages people to focus on life experiences, strengths and goals, and provides a range of courses to help people learn about mental health, to aid recovery and build resilience. We deliver both awareness workshops and longer courses, which are open to all adults who live, work or study in Leeds, including staff and carers.  People are encouraged to simply enrol for free on a course or workshop that is of interest to them.


A brief history

Back in October 2018, Simon Burton joined LYPFT as the Recovery College Development Manager and working with the College steering group, supported by Leeds Involving People, co-designed the first prospectus. Stacey Denwood joined the Trust in 2019 as the Recovery College Administrator.

The response to the College opening was overwhelmingly positive, and in six months just over 390 people enrolled on a course and over 40 LYPFT volunteers, clinical staff, and people from many different organisations in Leeds gave their time and expertise to train up and facilitate a course – resulting in 400 hours of course content being delivered.

As with most services April 2020 and the emergence of Covid19 resulted in all face-to-face delivery being suspended and new ways of working needing to be found. Over that summer, the college’s facilitators collaborated to adapt and develop some of their in-person course content for delivery online.

The Recovery College launched its second prospectus in September 2020, with 21 courses, some adapted for Zoom and some new to meet the needs of current times. While delivering a wellbeing course online brought some new challenges, over 300 people enrolled and participated digitally over the year. As we look forward to the new term and our third year,  we’re looking forward to welcoming even more people to join a course with us, both in-person and online.

We’re slowly developing, welcoming new students and staff who join us for a workshop, and then decide to go on to co-facilitate a course with us. We now have regular training events through the year to support co-production and confidence in course facilitation and delivery.

In April 2021, three new Recovery College Co-ordinators employed by LYPFT joined the team (Janette, Ruth and Julie) and we’re looking forward to welcoming you to come and experience a course with us. Please take a look at what courses we offer.


What is a recovery college?

Run like any other adult learning centre or college, Leeds Recovery College offers a range of free courses and workshops which focus on mental health and wellbeing. Courses are co-designed and co-led by trained facilitators who have had or are living with mental health and life challenges alongside health professionals and education providers who support us. By collaborating in this way, we believe that this ‘lived’ and ‘learnt’ experience brings a combination of perspectives into our training and creates a safe, warm and welcoming environment to learn in.

Our courses aren’t therapy, but we hope they will help people learn more about their mental health, enable them to determine what keeps themselves and other people well, and in finding ways to live better. This includes improving confidence and self-esteem, developing skills to move forward in life, health and work by managing difficult feelings and life challenges, connecting with others, building emotional resilience and reflecting on where you’re at and what’s important to you.

Our principles are:

  • Education and training courses to help increase awareness and understanding of mental health and wellbeing, promoting personal recovery approaches and helping to reduce stigma
  • ‘Lived and learnt’ experience being valued on equal terms with courses being co-designed and co-delivered
  • Inclusive and equally accessible to adults living in Leeds – there’s no referral or criteria (open to service users, staff, carers & general public

Complementing our values of:

  • Hope
  • Personal Responsibility
  • Education
  • Self-advocacy
  • Support

Meet the team…

The Recovery College is made up of a network of trained facilitators (40+ and counting) who volunteer their time and expertise to collaborate on a course with us. This includes LYPFT volunteers and clinical staff, NHS staff from other organisations, third sector partners and colleagues from education and community services.

Earlier this year the team expanded to welcome three more posts, as Recovery College Co-ordinators, and we thought it was about time that we properly introduced ourselves.

Simon Burton – Leeds Recovery College Development Manager

Hello, my name is Simon and I’ve worked in community recovery services for over 12 years and for the last seven years in Recovery Colleges (Kirklees, Barnsley and Leeds). Initially seeing my work as an important step on my own recovery journey, I’ve later appreciated the important perspective that lived experience of a mental health condition can bring to co-designing, delivering and managing mental health services.

This is why I feel so strongly about being a part of the college and is reflected in how we think about our work and how we develop our courses. Our approach is very much collaborative and we put equal value on personal and professional perspective. It’s great to see how the college is expanding and reaching a wider audience whether it’s service users, carers, professionals or people wanting to know more. Mental health is important and it’s important we all look after our own and support others in managing theirs.


Stacey Denwood – Leeds Recovery College Administrator

I joined Leeds Recovery College in September 2019 having wanted to work for the NHS because I am passionate about giving something back to the community and helping people who may find struggles in their day to day life.

Some days I struggle with my own mental health but I find it rewarding when I can offer support to people who may need someone to talk to and direct them onto courses that they may find helpful in supporting their own mental health or to help to support a friend or relative.

My team are great to work with and are also very passionate about supporting people as we all come from a lived experience background so we understand what a difference it can make to someone’s life just by having that extra support. Being a part of the Recovery College is one of the best things that have happened to me, it’s saved me.


Janette Ward – Leeds Recovery College Coordinator

Hi I am Janette Ward and I am delighted to be working as a full-time Recovery College Coordinator for Leeds Recovery College. My role is to support the development of wellbeing courses, retreats and trainings that include WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan).

I have my own lived experience of depression, anxiety and panic attacks alongside over 35 years of experience working in health and social care in many roles including as a nurse, social worker, advocate, director of a community interest company and trainer.

I am passionate about my own self-care and creating opportunities for others to not only to recover from their mental health challenges but to live the lives they want, to share their experiences, knowledge and skills, recognise their own amazing uniqueness, develop self-worth and achieve their potential.

In 2004 I heard about WRAP. Since then I have had my own WRAP plan and it is no exaggeration to say that has been life changing. Prior to that I had struggled with depression for seven years: since then I have not experienced it.

By creating and following my own plan, it keeps me well and over the years I have facilitated and delivered many accredited WRAP training courses, and developed new WRAP facilitators.

It has been my privilege to witness many hundreds of people get well and stay well.


Leeds Recovery College is an amazing creative, transforming space where powerful change happens, and where we support students through a person-centred approach.

Our model of co-producing and facilitating courses and retreats with a blend of professionals and people with a lived experience means that they are rich with meaningful content.


Ruth De Lissandri – Leeds Recovery College Coordinator

Hi there, I’m Ruth and working part-time. I oversee the marketing and communications side of Leeds Recovery College, as well as co-designing and co-facilitating courses.

I was first involved with the College from September 2019 as a student and shortly after as a volunteer and co-facilitator. Having lived experience of mental health challenges I am passionate about sharing how people experiencing mental health and life challenges can live the best life they can, and draw on my own experience of personal recovery which has been positively life changing.

I am proud and feel so blessed to be part of a team that enables

people to learn about what is important to them and their own self-care. To be part of a team that enables people to reflect on their own personal skills and enables them to develop the insight, knowledge and support they need for their own mental and physical health, both in life and work. In essence – being the expert in their own mental health and wellbeing – recovering a sense of self, purpose and control in life despite any curveballs they may face along the way. I want people to know that it’s okay to hope. It’s okay to dream, as with hope dreams come true. It’s been hope and resilience that have carried me through.

For me, just spending time with people and connecting is so important and sharing experiences in a positive safe space encourages and supports positive change and growth. This is why I have volunteered in various capacities for the last twenty-odd years and volunteer still in between looking after three little people who not only ensure there is never a dull moment in my life, but also complete me.


Julie Booth – Leeds Recovery College Coordinator

I am married with two grown up daughters and four beautiful grandchildren. I loved my previous job as a primary school teacher, and senior school leader and to be honest enjoy any role that involves any age children as I think they are a delight and I learn so much from them.

Following a breakdown in 2015 I became involved with Recovery College in Kirklees by attending a WRAP Course which empowered me to take control of my own mental health and taught me so much about myself. I started to regain my self-confidence and realised I did have skills to offer to help others in their recovery.

I became involved in Leeds Recovery College as a volunteer in 2018 and really enjoyed the process of giving back to others things I had learnt, but also continued to learn from people who attended the courses.

I have now been a part-time Recovery College Coordinator, in Leeds and with LYPFT, since March this year and I am grateful every day to have been given the opportunity to work in this field.  It is a privilege to be involved.

My role involves making sure volunteers and students on placement are looked after and involved in the areas that they are interested in. I also ensure they feel empowered to carry out their roles by arranging and delivering skills training. It’s important to me that in the College we have a process to ensure that anyone who volunteer or gives their expertise feels supported. I always felt nurtured by my involvement as a volunteer and I want to make sure others feel the same.

  • Some of our co-facilitators share their experience of Leeds Recovery College here and if you would like to find out more about what courses we offer please visit our website (