Interview with Jane Jones, new Chief Executive of Maytree Sanctuary for the Suicidal
i-genius spoke to Jane Jones prior to World Suicide Prevention Day, 10th September
i-genius: How are you settling into your new job?
Jane: It’s been a hectic eight months since I joined Maytree, but everyone has been incredibly welcoming and supportive, and I feel lucky to be working for such a brilliant organisation. Joining a charity as the new chief executive is always challenging, so I started the process of getting to know the organisation, its staff, board and volunteers well before I actually came into post – that way settling in is a little easier on everyone!
Getting to know the organisation and everyone in it is an exciting process, and I’m really enjoying working with the trustees, staff team and volunteers to make the changes needed to help Maytree become stronger for the future.
i-genius: What does Maytree do?
Jane: Maytree was set up to meet a need, amongst those at immediate risk of suicide, for sanctuary and an opportunity to be heard with compassion and warmth in a non-clinical environment. The aim is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and enable people who are feeling suicidal to re-engage with life. Maytree is a homely terraced house in north London, where those in crisis can stay, free of charge, for four nights/five days to reflect and be befriended. It fills a gap in services, receiving referrals from the statutory, private and voluntary sectors, as well as self-referrals and those who hear by word of mouth. We also support people in suicidal crisis over the phone, if they feel that’s more help to them than coming for a stay. We are open 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
i-genius: What kind of people go to Maytree?
Jane: Suicidal thoughts and feelings can affect anyone, so we find that our guests come from all walks of life and are all ages, although we can only offer a stay to those over the age of 18.
i-genius: How is Maytree funded?
Jane: Maytree is funded by donations, trust/grant foundations and fundraising activities by individual supporters. We hope to diversify our funding sources in the future, but for now it is solely our amazing supporters that fund this vital work.
i-genius: What advice would you give someone who wanted to do something similar as Maytree in another part of the world?
Jane: Volunteers are the heart of Maytree, and work shifts around the clock, so linking with good networks of great people who are willing to commit their time and invest their emotions in befriending is crucial. Befriending suicidal people is very rewarding, but can be difficult and distressing at times, so it’s also important to have good support in place for staff and volunteers, and to develop recruitment processes that ensure you have the right people.
Making links with local mental health care bodies and providers, like commissioners and crisis teams, is also vital for getting referrals to your service and developing credibility, and strong business and strategic plans and working out where you will get your funding from are always key to getting started.
A really good way to learn is to visit organisations like Maytree, that are experienced in providing this type of service.
i-genius: What advice would you give someone who considered killing themselves or who had a friend who was suicidal?
Jane: Talk to someone. People who feel suicidal might feel very isolated and alone, and can feel that their options have run out. Just talking to someone can help you to reflect and to see that there are other options. Sometimes, talking to friends and family can be difficult, especially if you don’t want to worry them. If that’s the case, there is lots of help out there – contact your GP, a local crisis team, the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 or Maytree on 020 7263 7070 and www.maytree.org.uk.
If you’re worried about someone you know who might be feeling suicidal, listen to them if they are willing to talk, and let them know you are there for them. Again, there is help at hand from GPs, local crisis teams and The Samaritans. You can also contact Maytree on their behalf and talk your worries through with us, and pass our details on to them so they can make contact themselves.
i-genius: Do you think special days like Suicide Prevention Day are effective?
Jane: Special days like World Suicide Prevention Day are excellent for raising awareness of issues that can operate below the radar of general consciousness for those that don’t have personal experience of them. They help us to understand more about issues like suicide, and to know how to respond should it affect us or someone we know. Unfortunately suicide remains a taboo subject, which makes it even more difficult for sufferers to talk about. World Suicide Prevention Day aims to create greater understanding and reduce stigma so that people feel able to seek and give help, and to make sources of help better known.
i-genius: Thank you