Touchstone and Leeds West Indian Carnival

Touchstone is a mental health and wellbeing charity that supports diverse communities across Yorkshire. They are proud supporters of Leeds West Indian Carnival and, in the run up to this year’s festivities, they have written about their relationship to Carnival and the support they offer to Caribbean and other Black and minority ethnic communities across Leeds.

It’s a pleasure and privilege to be supporters of Leeds West Indian Carnival this year.

The history and spirit of Carnival is closely intertwined with Touchstone’s work and ethos. Carnival’s celebration of authentic heritage and community spirit echoes our support work, which champions everyone’s right to live freely as themselves.

We also share a similarly long history of working with Caribbean and other diverse communities in Leeds. Touchstone was set up 41 years ago – a little less than Carnival’s substantial 56 years! – to create spaces for friendship and community in South Leeds. Over these 41 years, we have expanded to support people from all communities across Yorkshire, but we remain a major provider of health and wellbeing services for Black and Minority Ethnic communities in Leeds.

Ever since our conception, our support has been rooted in the communities we work with. We have bases in Beeston, Lincoln Green, and Chapeltown to name a few areas. Our Support Centre is even located at the very heart of the Carnival parade route, on Harehills Avenue!

We are proud to further build on the links between Touchstone and Carnival by becoming an official supporter of this year’s event.

Raising Awareness of Mental Health Support through Carnival

Through our relationship with Carnival, we also hope to raise awareness of the mental health support we offer, including to people too often excluded from that support.

We know good mental health support can be hard to reach for people who experience forms of discrimination and stigma, such as racism. People who have experienced racism in previous support services might distrust other support services, expecting similar treatment. They may also be reluctant to open up to services, out of concern of being unheard, misunderstood or misinterpreted.

These barriers can mean that people from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds are less likely to reach out for support, despite facing mental health issues and high levels of health inequality.

How Touchstone offers support

At Touchstone, we recognise these barriers and work hard to fully understand them and remove them, so as many people as possible can access our services. We are here for all people who experience discrimination and want support with their mental health.

Our staff represent the diverse communities we support. In 2021-22, 36% of our staff identified as Black or from an Ethnic Minority background, as well as 25% identifying as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual; 6% identifying as trans and/or non-binary; and 12% identifying as disabled. We know that a representative workforce doesn’t solve discrimination, but we think more diverse staff helps more people feel able to be their true selves when accessing support from Touchstone.

Our staff are also trained in issues and barriers that service users may face to help them best support every person where they’re at. We are soon rolling out Cultural Competency and Anti-Discrimination training to all staff too, which will specifically address the issues of racism and barriers people may face when trying to get support.

In 2021-22, 87% of our service users indicated that we are excellent or good at promoting diversity and making our services accessible. We continue to consider ways that we can improve our services and make them the most accessible they can be for everyone who needs them.

Being a part of Leeds Carnival is another way we hope to continue reaching, supporting, and working with diverse communities across Leeds. We are really grateful to the Carnival for helping to promote our work and making us as visible as possible.

Information about some of our services and how you can access them:

We work hard to identify the wellbeing needs of people across Yorkshire and offer support to meet those needs. We therefore support people with a range of needs. We help people to stay well before mental health issues develop and are there for people who are experiencing, or recovering from, serious mental health crises.

The services listed below can be self-referred to, meaning you can just get in touch to get support and don’t need to go through other health or social care services to access them. Some of them are specifically for Black and Minority Ethnic service users and others are open to all members of the public in Leeds.

  • Beacon Housing – They provide supported accommodation for people and families, including those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
  • Being You Leeds: They provide groups, activities and training and awareness sessions for community wellbeing across Leeds, with groups running 7 days a week, including evenings and weekends.
  • Better Together: They support the local community in Lincoln Green with community groups and activities to help address health inequalities, reduce isolation, and improve physical health and wellbeing.
  • BME Dementia Service: They provide specialist support to people living with memory problems, or a diagnosis of dementia, and their carers.
  • Leeds Mental Wellbeing Service (LMWS) – They can support you to access therapy, peer support, online resources, group sessions, phone support and more if you are feeling stressed, anxious, depressed or worried. Through Touchstone’s inclusion work with LMWS, you can also share feedback and help to improve LMWS’s mental health services.
  • Live Well Leeds – They help people with mild to moderate support needs to manage their mental health through a range of wellbeing groups and activities.
  • Men’s Health Unlocked – They organise events, activities and groups for men from all backgrounds in Leeds, as well as pushing for increased understanding around and support for men’s health needs.
  • Men In Health – They support men working in health and social care across West Yorkshire, offering free confidential advice and support.
  • Sikh Elders Service: They are a dedicated Punjabi-speaking team who provide specialised support to help improve the health and wellbeing of Sikh Elders.
  • TOPS – They support people in Harehills who are drinking alcohol on the streets through outreach and drop in sessions.