The Maytree Organization.

The Maytree Organization.

The Maytree Sanctuary in London has prevented more than one thousand suicides  – a place to go for those suicidal

‘I walked in hopeless and I walked out holding on to a little nugget of hope.’ Eight years ago, Sarah walked through the front doors of Maytree – the UK’s first ‘sanctuary for the suicidal’. She spent four nights and five days talking through her darkest thoughts with the volunteers at the time when she could not see the point of living any more. That short stay turned her life around. After leaving the house, she met the love of her life, moved to New York and got a new job. She has recently given birth to her first child.

Since it opened its doors to men and women on the brink of suicide 14 years ago, Maytree has welcomed more than 1,300 guests. Since then, as far as is known, only seven past visitors have gone on to take their own lives.

While they are there, guests are provided with the space to rest, reflect and talk freely about those difficult feelings and emotions that they’re sat with. What they do is difficult for one human being to give to another, that is to sit with an individual who really is in a dark place, not judge them and to show empathy and care. In establishing Maytree, it was recognized that there is a need to fill the void between telephone helplines and hospital admission for people having suicidal thoughts.

Maytree is a far cry from a clinical hospital ward. Aside from the sense of peace and calm, there’s the familiar sound of a washing machine whirring away in the background. Fluffy towels sit on crisp white bed-sheets in each of the four guest bedrooms and a small, yet tranquil garden is situated at the back of the house. It is a balance between creating a warm safe homely environment and a clinical setting.

One of the most remarkable things about Maytree is that it’s largely staffed by volunteers, who complete an in-depth six-week training course before interacting with the guests. Some have lost loved ones to suicide or previously stayed at the house as guests themselves.  Many of the volunteers had their own experiences of feeling suicidal and are now managing day to day.