‘I’d Rather Die Than Go Back to Hospital’: Why We Need a Non-medical Crisis House in Every Town
It was exciting going back to my old stamping ground. Years ago I’d worked in one of the local community mental health teams and had referred many women to the Drayton Park Crisis House. Walking up the steps of the house to meet Shirley brought back memories of standing there with desperate and suicidal clients, some of whom had told me that they would rather die than go back into hospital. As you can imagine, to say I had been glad that there was an alternative would have been an understatement.
The house is a large Victorian villa which looks much like its neighbours in a typical North London street. Shirley showed me round. The house was as I remembered it: furnished in a homely, ‘Ikea’ type style, with a lovely, airy living and dining space at the back overlooking the garden. Each resident has her own en-suite room, with a key, and there are cosy rooms for individual conversations and even massage. Residents’ children are also welcome. If I have a mental health crisis, take me there or somewhere like it. Unfortunately that’s unlikely to be possible – despite their overwhelming popularity there are still only a handful of crisis houses in the UK. I was keen to find out from Shirley how and why Drayton Park happened, and what has sustained it for twenty years. So on to my first question.