An ordinary house in north London is going to extraordinary lengths to help people driven to considering suicide.
According to the Maytree’s director, Natalie Howarth, only seven past visitors have gone on to take their own lives.
She told the Huffington Post:
I think to go on to bring life into the world when a few years ago you were thinking of ending your own life is pretty powerful.
Anyone having suicidal thoughts can contact the centre and arrange to come in for an initial meeting. After that, they’ll be invited for a one-off stay of five days – at no cost.
During their stay, guests are given the space to rest, reflect and talk about the crippling emotions they’re experiencing.
Although Howarth was careful to point out:
We don’t advise people and we don’t try and ‘fix’ things.
We sit with an individual who really is in a dark place, [don’t] judge them, and show [them] empathy and care.
The concept was the brainchild of Paddy Bazeley and Michael Knight who had both previously worked with the Samaritans.
They recognised the need to fill the void between helplines and hospitalisation for people having suicidal thoughts so they decided to create their own.
There’s no TV, radio or internet allowed – entertainment comes in the form of board games and puzzles – giving guests the chance to reflect without distraction.
Maytree is mostly staffed by volunteers – some of whom have lost loved ones to suicide or previously stayed at the house as guests themselves – and demand is, sadly, high.
The latest figures show that suicide is still the biggest killer of men under 45 in Britain – 2,997 men took their own lives in 2015.
The amount of women taking their own lives is also steadily increasing with 902 women dying from suicide in 2015, compared to 832 the previous year.
According to the Huffington Post, Maytree relies on funding from organisations like the National Lottery and Comic Relief as well as public donations, and it is hoped a second centre will be opened in the next few years – although there are no guarantees.
Although the Maytree has helped a fortunate few – they can’t help everyone. Mental illness accounts for 28 per cent of disease in the UK every year, but it receives just 13 per cent of the NHS’s budget.
If you or someone you know has mental health problems, do not suffer in silence.
The Samaritans offer a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI – this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
HopeLine runs a confidential advice helpline if you are a young person at risk of suicide or are worried about a young person at risk of suicide. Mon-Fri 10-5pm and 7pm-10pm. Weekends 2pm-5pm on 0800 068 41 41.