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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 November, 2003, 00:50 GMT
'I came here in total despair'
Jane Elliott
BBC News Online health staff

Teenager on the phone
Offering a sanctuary to the suicidal

For more than 30 years Paddy Bazeley worked for the Samaritans - which is celebrating its golden jubilee - offering a receptive ear to potential suicides.

But she wanted to do more to help the vulnerable, she wanted to offer them a sanctuary.

Somewhere they could go for a few days respite, where they could have warm meals and drinks and where there would always be someone on hand to listen if they wanted to talk.

So with a small group of supporters Paddy and her team set up Maytree - the UK's first respite centre for suicidal people, based in Finsbury Park, in north London.

Lifeline

The centre, which has now been open a year, has helped over 30 people by offering them a lifeline.

Maryanne, who used the centre explained: "I came here in a thousand pieces, without hope, in terror and total despair...I leave here as a whole person ..with hope knowing I can change."

We can all identify with needing somewhere safe in our lives
Paddy Bazeley, Maytree director

Ms Bazeley, a director of the centre, said when people like Maryanne reached the depths of despair they needed a sanctuary to shelter and recover.

She said that by offering them a short-stay, a maximum of four days, in Maytree they hoped to persuade them that life was worth living.

"It was really when I was working with the Samaritans I got so many people who needed somewhere safe. Somewhere to be for a short-time where they could consider this living and dying.

"I saw a lot of people who were suicidal and a lot said they would rather die than go to hospital and a lot of them did.

"Suicide is so much about ambivalence and we are hoping to tip the balance into living.

"We can all identify with needing somewhere safe in our lives."

Suicide facts
More people die from suicides than are killed on the roads
In the Greater London area there are two suicides a day
About 75% of suicides are males, but the majority of attempts are by females
For every suicide there are roughly 30 attempts and 150 hospital admissions for deliberate self-harm

Maytree can offer rooms for up to six people at one time, but at the moment people are only able to book in once, although Ms Bazeley said this might be reviewed.

She said those people, like Annie, who had used Maytree had found it a turning point in their lives.

Annie said: "I feel very privileged to have stayed at Maytree..you have helped me see myself in a different light ..that it is possible for life to be worthwhile."

Ms Bazeley said Maytree was specially created to be a calming and peaceful influence on those needing to stay.

"It is a lovely house and calm and peaceful and that immediately settles people."

Help

"People talk about it giving them time for reflection because we do not have a television. It is amazing what people discover about themselves when they talk."

She said although the house is a sanctuary, it must also be remembered it is housing potential suicides and everything possible must be done to prevent deaths, without making the house into an institution.

"As far as we know nobody who has stayed here has committed suicide.

"But people are fragile and we have to take the risk that it could happen here, but we have made the house as safe as possible, but we want to keep it as a house rather than an institute."

Richard Brook, chief executive of Mind, said centres like this could help to offer help to those who were desperately in need of it.

"We know people who feel suicidal, particularly young men do not always approach statutory mental health services for help.

"Mind welcome the opening of this centre because people with mental health problems, like anyone else, needs somewhere to go where they can feel safe at those times when they are desperate or in despair."




SEE ALSO:
Samaritans celebrates 50 years
02 Nov 03 |  Health
Training to spot suicide risks
08 Sep 03 |  Scotland
Male suicide rate high
29 Jul 03 |  Health


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