An innovative holistic treatment programme which offers a recovery-focused and trauma-informed approach to mental health recovery has been described as having a “life-changing” impact on people in Leeds and will soon be expanded further across the city.
The HEROES programme – which stands for ‘Healing, Education and Recovery Of Emotional Strength’ – is an eight-week, 20-hour therapeutic group work programme which has been available to patients at GP practices within the Burmantofts, Harehills and Richmond Hill areas, called ‘Primary Care Networks’ since 2020 – and has been reporting some impressive results.
According to HEROES founder and NHS mental health lead Miranda Arieh, 100 per cent of people
who have been through the course have recorded a reduced score on the NHS standard depression
test, the PHQ-9 questionnaire, by the midway point, with this reducing even further by the final
“We have had some incredible transformations. It’s been really life-changing for a lot ofMiranda Arieh, HEROES founder and NHS mental health lead
Its success at existing GP practices has seen another Leeds Primary Care Network, Central North Leeds – one of the city’s largest – recently sign up to introduce the programme for its 78,000-strong patient population across Alwoodley, Meanwood, Shadwell, Oakwood and Little London.
What is the HEROES programme?
HEROES is based on supporting people to shine a light on, and shift, any limits they have created
about themselves and their identity in response to trauma they may have encountered in their lives.
The programme says it aims to hold a safe space for all to build a better relationship with themselves and the world around them, for effective healing to occur.
It focuses on the body as well as the mind, explaining nervous system regulation and physical responses as well as emotional support such as self-compassion, self-identity and inner-forgiveness.
Miranda explains, “It’s a holistic approach treatment; it’s wholly trauma-informed. By using a coaching approach, we are essentially not just teaching people to recognise where their certain traumas or mental health problems are coming from, but looking to support people to move forward.
We look at stripping back any identity that has been created by people out of their past, out of trauma like childhood difficulties, bullying etc. A huge bulk of the programme is about reminding people of the truth about who they are – that they are limitless and of their ability to recover.”
How did it start?
The HEROES approach has grown out of Miranda’s own mental health recovery, having studied
various different treatment methods while “incapacitated” by mental illness during periods of her
“We cover a lot within HEROES. It’s got different schools of thought, from different modalities, from different therapeutic models, that all helped me during my recovery journey.”, Miranda continued.
The programme trains staff to deliver the group sessions and at the Burmantofts, Harehills and Richmond Hill GP practices, over 200 patients have been helped over the past two-and-a-half years, with the forecast for another 96 this year.
Sarah Wadsworth, who teaches the course at Burmantofts, Harehills and Richmond Hill GP Practices is also seeing positive results.
“We’re seeing amazing results. I always say I would love to be able to film people because you can see even physical changes from week one to week eight.
But then the emotional changes that take place too – it’s just all been amazing.
One person told us she had stopped having panic attacks and that was just three weeks into the programme.
People who have finished the course have told us they’ve been offered other services but have declined them, saying they’re feeling in a better place while on the HEROES programme.”
How can I be referred onto the programme?
People registered as patients at Burmantofts, Harehills and Richmond Hill practices can be referred by their GP.
Patients at Central North Primary Care Network (Alwoodley, Meanwood, Shadwell, Oakwood and Little London), will soon also be able to be referred by their GP. At these practices, a team of “social prescribers” – a role within GP practices which provides links to a range of local, non-medical activities – are set to begin their training to offer the course over the next few months.
Patients in these practice areas can also self-refer by texting their name and GP surgery to 0759 344 6862.
Helen Benson, Central North Leeds Primary Care Network manager and social prescribing lead says they’re looking forward to launching the course.
“Social prescribers are increasingly connecting with patients whose challenges stem from mental health difficulties.
We feel very strongly about the importance of investment in our team to ensure that they are
equipped to provide the very best support to our patients.
HEROES sounds amazing and has, according to patient reviews, had an enormously positive impact on progress, recovery and quality of life of those who have taken part. So we’re looking forward to getting it off the ground.”
Miranda said she is “absolutely delighted” that Central North Leeds patients will soon be offered
HEROES and has ambitious plans for the programme’s future.
“Hopefully we’re just going to keep spreading and expanding this far and wide. We’re really hoping to go national with it in the next year or so,”Miranda Arieh, HEROES founder and NHS mental health lead
An online form has been created to gather interest in the HEROES programme from patients,
organisations and GP practices elsewhere in Leeds, which are commissioned by the NHS Integrated
Care Board in Leeds, as well as elsewhere across the country. Visit www.heroesnetwork.co.uk.
Holistic approaches, such as the HEROES programme, aim to provide support for the whole person,
not just their mental health needs, but also their physical wellbeing as well as emotional and social
Lucy Hancock, CEO of the charity Leeds Mind, highlighted the positives of this approach.
“Social prescribing, peer support and lived experience leadership is a key part of our own
mental health support offer at Leeds Mind; there are lots of great examples of this across Leeds and the wider area, so we wholly support an expansion of holistic approaches to mental health in Leeds.
We adopt this approach because we know that people don’t exist as individual diagnoses. We also understand that while a diagnosis can empower some people, others find it reductive.
Looking at the whole person and their experiences is more effective because we know that multiple social and economic factors inform mental wellbeing. Looking at these wider determinants of health – such as housing, finances, trauma, discrimination, nutrition, and physical health – is important for more meaningful, long-term outcomes.”