Finsbury Park suicide respite centre Maytree set to grow

On World Suicide Prevention Day, a suicide respite centre in Finsbury Park is reaching out to people who are thinking about ending their life.

Charity Maytree, which offers five days of respite in a non-medical, residential setting, opened in London in 2002 and now the board of trustees are looking to replicate it in Manchester.

Although progress is being made, an NHS report published this summer shows many people in mental health crises still cannot access support in their local area, with 59% patients travelling more than 50km to access mental health treatment in March 2018.

When 19-year-old Lucy from Bristol tried to kill herself after a period of mental illness, she was given a sedative and a strong anti-depressant and, because beds were only available in Manchester, her nurse said: “We’ll see you on Monday, all the best for the weekend.”

Maytree director Natalie Howarth said: “Our founders, Paddy Bazeley and Michael Knight worked at Samaritans and realised there was a gap in support services. You either have the helplines or you’re sectioned, there’s no in between.”

Many people discover Maytree after googling ‘how can I kill myself’ and ‘painless suicide’ as their website is engineered so it will show in these searches.

Maytree looks like a regular house; it has four beds, there’s a kitchen where communal meals are made, there’s a living room with games and a guitar and a serene garden.

Maytree is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and the volunteers and staff spend time with each guest giving them the opportunity to talk through their struggles.

On leaving, each guest receives a goodbye letter which validates their struggles and honours their achievements.

People come from all over the country to access this space and only 48% of guests who declared an area were from London.

Ms Howarth said: “Think of an individual who is trying to hold everything together but is in emotional turmoil, with suicidal thoughts, feelings and even plans.

“They must reach out for support, go through the process of being assessed and then must travel.

“We’ve had people travel from Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Cornwall. It never ceases to amaze me how they’ve found that courage to come and travel all that way.”

She added: “Hopefully, when we next speak there’ll be a Maytree in every city.”

According to the Office of National Statistics, 568 Londoners died by suicide last year.

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