Men’s suicide prevention charity James’ Place launches online service in Hackney

A man looking outside from James' Place in Liverpool

A man looking outside from James' Place in Liverpool - Credit: James' Place

A charity which helps suicidal men has fast tracked its plans to open in Hackney, to help respond to the mental health effects of the coronavirus crisis in London.

James' Place in Liverpool

James' Place in Liverpool - Credit: James' Place

The male suicide prevention charity James’ Place has planned to first find a building and open a physical service, but has pre-empted that with an online service, in recognition of the demand for suicide prevention work.

A pilot phase has been running since June with referrals from the A&E liaison team at East London NHS Foundation Trust (ELFT), but referrals have now been extended to the NHS helpline Crisis Line and urgent assessment team, meaning more men can access the life-saving service.

Men are three times as likely as women to die of suicide and it is the biggest cause of death for men under 50.

Ellen O’Donoghue, executive director of James’ Place which opened in Liverpool in 2018, told the Gazette: “In March we realised lockdown was coming and we moved our entire service in Liverpool online, so we were able to carry on taking referrals and then we realised we could do things differently in London.

“What made us want to speed up are the things that men come to us for. Loneliness, debt, relationship problems and family breakdown and given lockdown meant things would be more difficult than usual, we thought the quicker we could get the virtual service open would be better.

“The things that lead to severe distress and which make it hard to manage an existing mental health problem are around at the moment because of lockdown, with enormous amounts of change and uncertainty.

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“We are seeing some of the themes you would expect to see, with high levels of anxiety, loneliness and worry about the future and financial concerns.”

She continued: “What we have seen in Liverpool is rather than an increase on service demand, is a change in how people are coming to us. Fewer people are coming through A&E, and that might be because people are trying to relieve the pressure on health services.

“The thing we would say is that if you have the problems that make you feel this bad then seeking help is the best thing to do. Not seeking help won’t make the problem go away and will mean the problem doesn’t get dealt with.”

Once the charity has a centre in Hackney, referrals will also be taken from GPs, other local services, occupational health teams and student counselling services.

The charity is currently seeking “the right building”, and hopes to open as soon as possible with a couple of options lined up. “The building is a key part of the intervention to make people feel safe, and as though people are looking out for them as soon as they walk in,” said Ellen.

“People will let them in and make them a cup of tea, and men say they feel calmer and better the moment they arrive with us. One of our therapists said it’s like having an extra therapist on the team. We want a building that feels like someone’s home. Somewhere a man can feel respected and valued.

“We are confident it will be saving lives. Men have a range of things driving their crises. They are things that would stress anybody - like unemployment, debt and family breakdown. One of the key things we do is to try to break that down with him and find out what are the factors that contributed to him reaching the crisis point, how he can get through it and how he can make sure it doesn’t happen again and how he can live the life he wants to live.

“One of the things I continually find inspiring is how people can find hope, and we would say suicide isn’t inevitable, and with the right support people can get through these terrible times. We want people to understand there is help out there if people find themselves at crisis point.”

To contact the City and Hackney mental health crisis line call 020 8432 8020.

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