The Duke of Cambridge has said society is not tackling the issue of male suicide “as fast as we need to” as he opened the latest centre of a charity supporting men in crisis.
William toured the new London branch of James’ Place with co-founder Clare Milford Haven, who created the service after her son James took his own life aged just 21, and met a 58-year-old father who said he owed his life to the charity.
The duke told Derek Wilson, 58, a building inspector from Liverpool, and his wife Sarah Wilson: “We are not really tackling the problem as fast as we need to.”
Later, in an impromptu speech during the unveiling of a plaque to mark the opening, William said: “The one takeaway thing for me today particularly, is the idea that there is a solution, there’s always a solution. I think that’s the thing the team have impressed on me.
“Despite anyone feeling like this is the last thing in the world they can do and taking their own life – is realising that there is a solution, I think that’s really important.
“I think men sometimes get so in the detail we forget about the bigger picture and being able to have that bit of support that can move them forward, and there is hope and a brighter future beyond that.”
Mr Wilson candidly described how he was struggling with his mental health but did not think he had any “issues”, although they were apparent to his wife, and said “I would not be here” without the support of Jane Boland, head of the Liverpool centre of James’ Place.
He told William: “Obviously I tried to end my life – the pressures of work and things like that. I just went out one day and thought ‘you know what, everyone’s better without me’.”
After being advised there was a wait of six weeks for mental health services, a family friend told them about the charity whose centres in Liverpool and London have a homely feel, and have an innovative approach of engaging with clients.
The “lay your cards on the table” system allows those in crisis from break-ups, work issues or other problems, to make sense of their thoughts and feelings by picking out cards with printed statements such as “how can I get through this” or words like “angry” or “trapped”.
Mr Wilson said: “As soon as I walked through the door, I felt the whole issue had gone and I was going to get the help that I needed and I got that within 48 hours,” and he described using the cards as his “lightbulb” moment.
He told William he now has a few words on his phone that have helped him during a few “wobbles” with his mental health – “suicide is a permanent solution of a temporary problem”.
James’ Place was founded in 2008 by James’ parents Mrs Milford Haven and her ex-husband Nick Wentworth-Stanley after his suicide in 2006.
Mrs Milford Haven, who through her second marriage is a distant relative of William, said her son had reached out for help but had been unable to find the right support.
She said: “I wish there had been a James’ Place for my James. I don’t believe my son wanted to die.”
William opened the organisation’s first centre in Liverpool in 2018. It has supported 800 men and a further 125 have been helped by a temporary centre in London since April 2021, which is now replaced by the new facility near Old Street close to the City of London.
With suicide the leading cause of death for men under 50, the charity has set itself the ambitious target of raising £10m to open three more centres in the next few years.