On the 22nd July I will be taking part in the London Triathalon, over the Olympic course involving a swim of 1.5 kms, 40 kms of cycling and a 10 Kms of running (the bit I’m really dreading as my knees are shot!). I am doing this to fund raise for the Maytree, which is a sanctuary for the suicidal and those suffering with mental health issues, a place where I volunteer to support ‘guests’ who spend 4 nights and 5 days at the house. It gives them an opportunity to reflect, to talk openly with the volunteers and the co-ordinators, in an entirely safe and confidential place, about the issues of mental health, which have led to them to contact Maytree.
Simply providing that safe sanctuary and opportunity to talk is extraordinarily impactful; a study undertaken in 2012, amongst a sample of guests after their stay at Maytree, identified 76% who had no suicidal thoughts, or a reduced instance. Yet the prevelance of mental health issues is a contemporary social challenge that is under supported, under funded and remains too much of an under discussed issue.
Maytree is entirely dependent upon external funding for its existence. Whilst over 200 volunteers give their time for free, there are still the costs of running the house in North London and covering the absolute minimum but vital costs associated with administration and the coordinators who are so central to helping so many of the guests to re-evaluate.
The need for services such as Maytree is more apparent than ever with the NHS and GP’s under increasing time and financial pressures. Often those who contact Maytree do so because these traditional support structures are failing them and they lack the broader support of friends and family that so many of us enjoy. Increasingly themes such as social isolation are becoming more apparent with some of the everyday tools that we use, like Social Media, being part of the problem rather than the solution.
And, in case you were wondering, why did I get involved with Maytree? Simply as an act of openness; middle aged men are the highest incident suicide group and often struggle to talk openly about their feelings but also because I had two friends who have taken their own lives and, in hindsight, I wish I had spent mote time talking with them and trying to understand their depression. I don’t want to make that mistake again. I would also add that volunteering at Maytree is one of the most extraordinary and positive experiences in my life, it’s an absolute privilege and I’d urge any of you, who have a few hours that you can spare every week, to consider this option.
Any donation, of any amount, is extraordinarily welcome and appreciated. My only goal is to get through the triathalon and finish the event.
Having said that, as I have never competed before in a triathalon, I made up a rather ambitious finish time on my entry form with a complete absence of research (or even intelligent guess work) thus the organisers think that I’ll be leading the Brownlee Brothers around the course - only if they are both carrying a sofa on their backs and start a day later.