10 October 2019
World Mental Health Day – 10th October 2019
Today is World Mental Health Day, and this year the World Federation for Mental Health has chosen ‘suicide prevention’ as the main theme for consideration. Maytree (www.maytree.org.uk) is a registered charity whose whole focus is on providing a safe, confidential, non-medical environment for people when they are feeling suicidal. The residential house they provide is open 365 a year.
LM, a psychotherapy trainee at WPF Therapy has been volunteering at Maytree for over a year and spoke eloquently and movingly about her experience of this.
WPF: There are many different areas of voluntary support that involve listening available to counselling skills and psychotherapy students. What drew you to this one?
LM: A mixture of reasons really. Partly my own past personal experiences of feeling I couldn’t go on, partly a close family member who was depressed and became very suicidal for a long period of time during which they dipped in and out of suicidality for around five years. It means that I know first-hand what an enormous strain supporting someone who is suicidally depressed can put on friends and family, plus the value of being able to be part of providing a space where people can be honest and open about how they are feeling.
It is often inevitable that the environments where people who are at risk of fatally harming themselves, are very medicalised. At Maytree the purpose is to have a relatable human being available 24/7 in a non-medical environment to list, have conversations that enable people to open up in respectful way. The “homely environment” at Maytree also means that the guests can have access to friendly, non-pressurised interactions that may not always focus on the difficulties they are facing. Being able to get involved in activities such as cooking, sharing a cup of tea, sitting in reflective silence with another person, or spending quiet time in their room whilst knowing that they are not alone, these small acts of kindness and understanding mean a lot.
WPF: Since volunteering at Maytree how have your ideas and thoughts about suicide altered?
LM: I’ve been struck by the breadth and complexity of reasons that have resulted in guests being offered respite at Maytree. Some impulsive, some very meticulously planned. I’m more aware of the differences between ‘not wanting to live anymore but not wanting to die, versus the definite desire to end one’s life’.
The enormous value of taking the time to listen to people who are struggling with depression or feeling overwhelmed by suicidal thoughts is frequently stressed and I have experienced first hand how important it can be. Maytree is a unique and special place for all the guests that stay there. It is also challenging, rewarding and supportive for volunteers like myself. We are encouraged to go to Reflection Sessions and talk to one another if we’re finding it hard to process something. I know for me it is all those things that would make it hard to ever leave and I hope to keep volunteering with them for as long as I can.