Angela Sharda interviews Dan Bracken, Head of James’ Place London on the work that the charity is currently doing, the services they provide and the men’s mental health crisis.
Q. Talk us through the services you provide and how the public can access them.
A. James’ Place is a charity offering free, life-saving treatment to men, and those who identify as men, aged 18 and over who are in suicidal crisis in London and the North West. The men we treat are in a suicidal crisis largely driven by life events such as a relationship breakdown, financial problems or bereavement.
Our treatment takes the form of face-to-face talking therapy which is proven to work, quick to access and delivered in a safe, friendly, non-clinical environment by trained, professional therapists. Our therapists get quickly to the heart of a man’s suicidal crisis, and help him solve it.
Q. What was the inspiration behind opening James’ Place in the City?
A. James’ Place was founded by Clare Milford Haven and Nick Wentworth-Stanley following the tragic death of their son James. Aged just 21, James took his own life ten days after a minor operation. He sought help for his anxiety and suicidal thoughts but didn’t find the urgent help he so desperately needed. Clare and Nick were determined to prevent other families from losing the men they love and set up the charity to help men in suicidal crisis. The first James’ Place opened in June 2018 in Liverpool, the first of its kind in the UK. Our second centre near Old Street in London was opened in 2022 to treat men in suicidal crisis in Greater London and the surrounding area.
Q. What is your process of helping men who find difficulty in talking about certain issues?
A. Our therapy aims to help men understand why they are in suicidal crisis, what is keeping it going, and how they can get out of it. Men will typically see the same therapist for 6-8 sessions so they can build trust and work together effectively. Part of our treatment that has been very successful is the deck of cards we use called Lay Your Cards on the Table, which helps men articulate what is going on for them without having to necessarily explain it in words.
We knew that to reach men in need our service and the environment it was delivered in had to be designed to specifically target men, so they felt comfortable coming to us for help. When developing our centres we asked men what they would want the environment to be like. They talked about an outside space, a calm and welcoming environment and being able to get help quickly, all of which are integral to our service.
Q. Do you think enough is being done to tackle the men’s mental health crisis?
A. In order to tackle the rate of suicide in men there needs to be appropriate, well-resourced and easy to access support available and an awareness that this help exists. If someone is in suicidal crisis quick intervention is essential.
In addition, men can often associate seeking assistance with shame and weakness due to traditional social conditioning of what it means to be male. There is also stigma around suicide itself, it’s not something we talk openly and honestly about as a society. We all need to be ready to challenge this and to be able to ask friends and loved ones direct questions about how they are, to listen to them when they need to talk and be able to signpost them to help if they need it.
Q. What feedback have you had from men?
A. We’ve had fantastic feedback from the men who have used our service – some recent feedback shows that 97% were happy with the emotional and practical support they received as well as the quality of the therapy. We also know through independent evaluation of our treatment that the men who have come to James’ Place have a significant reduction in their levels of psychological distress.
We often hear back from men who have been to see us who have gone on to live happy and fulfilling lives. They have started families, embarked on exciting adventures, secured new jobs, and become grandparents. Many of the men talk about James’ Place as being a life-changing experience for them and that they would not be here without us. Knowing that we have given these men hope for the future encourages us to keep going in our important work.
Q. How can people get in contact?
A. Men can self-refer or be referred to us by a professional including those working in health and community services, or by a friend or family member. Visit /support for more information or call us on 020 3488 8404.
Q. What’s in the pipeline for the rest of 2023/2024?
A. We are opening our third centre, in the North East of England, by the end of 2023, and have plans to open two more in England over the next three years, treating up to 2,000 men per year. Our aim is that half the male population of England will be within two hours of a James’ Place centre.