Trail-blazing Highbury centre for abused women celebrates 18 years

Staff and service users at the centre

Staff and service users at the centre - Credit: Archant

A trail-blazing crisis centre providing refuge for women who have suffered abuse and mental torture has celebrated its coming of age.

The Drayton Park Crisis Centre (DPCC), in Drayton Park, a mental health service for women who would otherwise be admitted to hospital, turned 18 on Friday.

Staff and services users gathered to honour the occasion and were joined by Baroness Julia Neuberger, who founded the centre when she was chair of Camden and Islington Foundation Trust in 1995.

She said: “Women who come to Drayton Park immediately feel the sense of calm. It is a very special place. When I helped set it up 18 years ago we never thought it would have been so successful. It has changed the lives of so many women for the better and has given them hope and inspiration when they had none.”

Shirley McNicholas, senior manager at the centre, said: “It was a fantastic day, inspiring and emotional. When we opened Nelson Mandela had just been freed – he fought for social justice and we recognise injustice against women, so the fact he has died the night before our party meant he was a constant theme throughout the day.”

The DPCC is unique because it is the only all-women crisis centre run by an all-women team in the country - many centres have mixed sex accommodation or mixed sex staffing.

The Highbury facility also allows women to bring their children to live with them, giving a more homely feel and providing women the option of not having to rely on friends and family to look after their little ones.

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Beth, one of the women who has recently used the centre describes it as a life-saver. Beth is a professional in the NHS, and a few years ago became depressed.

She said: “I couldn’t believe what was happening to me. It was almost overnight that I became a different person. I tried to commit suicide. I was in the worst place possible. It was a mercy that I ended up at Drayton Park. Their level of care and understanding was exceptional. It saved my life.”

Another woman who has used the service - Sarah - said: “I was an emotional wreck. I had to cope with hallucinations and hearing voices. The staff at Drayton Park listened to me and helped me through this incredibly difficult time. If I hadn’t have had their support I wouldn’t be here now.

Before I came to Drayton Park I couldn’t read or write. Now I can and I even write poetry.”

DPCC is open to any women in Islington whose mental health problems have been brought on by abuse and would otherwise be hospitalised - including self-referrals.

For more information, call 020 7607 2777.