These images are part of a project I’ve been working on with suicide respite house Maytree. Maytree provides befriending support for people experiencing suicidal thoughts and feelings in a non-clinical and unique space. The project is also comprised of portraits and interviews with volunteers exploring their own experiences with mental health and how they came to be at Maytree. Some of whom have previously been guests at the house. Click here to read all the posts from this project.
I’ve been spending a bit of time volunteering at Maytree over the Christmas period given that it’s a really quiet time for me. It’s hard to believe that it’s been over 18 months since I started volunteering. The house has been quite quiet over the Christmas period so I spent a little time reflecting on the traces that the guests leave behind and the house as a site for transformation. What brings me back to Maytree is its non-clinical approach to helping people. When I walk through the house door I know that I am walking into a home as opposed to a hospital or clinic. There is often the faint sounds of someone fixing the lunch or dinner in the kitchen; guests and volunteers alike chatting or even laughing together; the low hum of the washing machine. It can be hard to tell the difference between volunteers and guests which reminds me that there is no hierarchy here: we are all equal, learning how to navigate through the difficulties that life can throw at us.
As I wandered through the house to take photographs I paused to think about how many people had come through the house and how it may have helped them. It reminded me of when I was producing my project Abandoned. I would often stop and think about all the unknown human experiences that had taken place here. I would often think about my own hospitalisation and try to place myself into the mind of the other. The house can be a place for intense expression and reflection, with traces of a guest’s stay not only left behind physically, but mentally and emotionally with all those that they shared their story with.