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Meet The Charity, James' Place, Working to Combat Male Suicide in The North East and Beyond

Meet The Charity Working to Combat Male Suicide in The North East and Beyond
Health and beauty
April 2024
Reading time 4 Minutes

No one should suffer alone

As part of our continuing series highlighting the invaluable work of smaller charities across the region, Living North caught up with John Younger, head of the new Newcastle branch of James' Place, a charity dedicated to suicide prevention for men.

The charity was set up after founders Clare Milford Haven and Nick Wentworth-Stanley lost their son James to suicide in 2006. ‘He went in for minor surgery in Newcastle and came out of it with high levels of anxiety,’ John explains. ‘He tried to get help at that time but it wasn’t forthcoming and he ended up going home briefly, and not long after he tried to get help, he ended his life.’

His parents then campaigned for suicide awareness and raised a memorial fund, but wanted to go further. ‘Clare always had a vision of somewhere that James could have gone to get help quite quickly,’ John says. ‘So they set about establishing and opening the first James’ Place centre which opened up in Liverpool in 2018, and then they opened up a second in 2022, and the Newcastle branch very recently.’ The recent branch that opened in Newcastle held particular significance. ‘The suicide rates for males are really high in Newcastle and it’s quite personal as well because that’s where James went to university.’

The centre (which can be found on Summerhill Street) aims to give support to men who are in crisis and dealing with intense suicidal thoughts, with a clear and effective process for those who are referred to them. ‘If there was someone who was really struggling with intense suicidal thoughts, they would submit an online referral form which is on the website. It’ll ask them for a bit of narrative on what’s going on for them and once they submit that it goes into our online IT system for our duty worker, which is me. I’ll review that the same day and make a decision on whether it’s something that we can help with or not. If it is, we contact them the same day and arrange for them to come to our centre within 48 working hours,’ John explains. ‘Once we’ve arranged the appointment and they’ve come in, they’ll see one of our suicide prevention therapists for an assessment which is usually about an hour. They’ll be asked a lot of questions about what’s been happening in their life, what’s been going on and how they’re feeling now. If they’re suitable for our intervention then we’ll invite them back for usually between six to eight hour-long sessions with the same therapist at our centre.

‘We work through our intervention which is something that our clinical lead Jane Boland created. It’s called Lay Your Cards on The Table and it’s four sets of prompt cards. For example, one of them is called What’s Going On Now and some of the prompts are like, I feel lonely, I’m drinking too much or I’m avoiding people. We ask them to go through the cards and identify which ones are the most relevant to them. It’s a very good visual way of identifying everything that’s going on. Folks do tend to struggle to articulate what’s going on so the cards do help to facilitate that.’

For John and the team, the success of the Newcastle centre can be measured in different ways and the future looks bright. ‘On a clinical level, when a man comes in for the first time we ask him to complete two assessment tools – one measures psychological distress and one measures entrapment, which are the two key factors in perceiving suicide,’ John explains. Entrapment here refers to being in seemingly inescapable, unbearable situations like an unhealthy relationship or debt. ‘When people are first coming in, those scores are high and then by the end of all the sessions they come right down. So on that side of things we can be successful and effective because we find that people are improving and the vast majority of people do improve.

‘My target is getting up to capacity. So it’s about the amount of people that we can see and currently we’re engaging with various other healthcare services in the North East – promoting awareness of us and creating referral networks and partners. We want to really be embedded and be a part of the suicide prevention network in the North East.’

Although it is still early days for the centre, they hope to look into running a volunteer programme too. ‘The other centres do have a volunteer programme and it’s mainly for men who’ve been through our intervention. They’ll do group work and take volunteers on to facilitate it, but with us still being new in the area and still establishing ourselves, it’s something we’re going to be looking at for the future.’

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