Two Shaftesbury clubs that support locals facing mental health challenges are hosting a joint fundraising drive on Saturday. The event organisers think that attendees will be impressed by the range of goods and prizes on offer.
Amanda Sadler launched her mental health peer support group in April 2018. Her informal, monthly sessions are arranged to help Shaftesbury area residents who are bipolar or who have depression, anxiety, Asperger’s or PTSD.
“People with any sort of mental health problem feel much more relaxed and less judged when they are with others,” said Amanda. “We don’t necessarily know what the problem is with people, but you can instantly relax and know that nobody will judge you if you start crying. It’s fine. We share different ways of feeling better and talk about looking after yourself generally.”
Amanda arranges two events each month. “We have a social event at the Grosvenor Arms. The one at the British Legion Hall is structured on whether or not we have a visitor. There is still plenty of time for just chatting and having a cup of tea and socialising. We either have a theme or a speaker, which takes some of the time.”
The Royal British Legion sessions are held on the first Thursday of the month and the Grosvenor Arms events are on the third Thursday. Both meetings run between 2pm and 4pm.
Amanda joined the staff of Dorset Mind last autumn and says she has learned from that experience. “I do a little bit more paperwork now. But not a lot,” laughed Amanda. “Some of their knowledge and the stuff I learnt on the training has been very useful.”
But recently, Amanda has chosen to step down from Dorset Mind. “North Dorset is very different to somewhere like Bournemouth, where Dorset Mind is based. I think they have got a lot of learning to do for the country areas like this. They are opening a group in Gillingham so that will be nice. People will have a choice,’ said Amanda.
Making Space encourages locals to ‘free their minds with art’ through creative workshops held in Shaftesbury Town Band’s Hall. The group was set up by social worker and artist Sue Gibson. “We have a different activity every time. We’ve used tie-dye, mosaics, collage and clay. We’ve had jewellery making, felt making and a whole range of different activities. Sometimes it is skill-based and sometimes it’s a case of letting go with your ideas. I’m really happy for people to come, be inspired and do whatever they want. It is relaxed and easy-going,” said Sue.
“It is an opportunity to let go of whatever stresses you have in life,” she continued. “You leave them outside the door. You come in and handle nice materials. You are working with colourful things. It provides a respite, a break.”
Sue says an important aspect of Making Space is the sense of belonging. “It has developed into a friendly and supportive group. While the creative activities are going on, all sorts of conversations will arise naturally. Sometimes they can be about mental health and sometimes they can be talking about TV or whatever. It is a relaxed environment with tea and cake. I mustn’t forget the cake!” added Sue.
Making Space sessions are held on the first and third Monday of every month, between 10.30am and 12 midday at the Town Band’s Hall. Sue says that the group is open to anybody and the current participants’ ages range from 20 years up to people in their early 80s.
The attendance figures have grown. “At first there were around four to six. Now we regularly have about eleven. It’s not the same people all the time. We all have other things to do,” said Sue.
Sue has kept her group independent of any national or regional organisations. She has worked professionally with mental health services in the Dorchester area. Like Amanda, Sue also believes that North Dorset has special needs.
“We are underfunded and under-resourced in the north of Dorset. If you look at mental health services or voluntary organisation provision, it’s very much big-town-based. It is centred on Weymouth, Dorchester, Poole and Bournemouth. In the north, there has been very little development of alternative ways of working with people, outside of GP surgeries. The other thing we struggle with is transport. People can’t always get to Shaftesbury or Sturminster Newton where an activity or group might be, particularly if it happens to be an evening group. Outside of the big towns, public transport is a big issue,” said Sue.
Having access to a car isn’t always a solution. “For people who are struggling with mental health and who are unable to work or are on benefits, you have to budget carefully. Sometimes using your car to drive a 12-mile round trip to go to a group just isn’t possible,” Sue explained. That’s why Sue and Amanda host their get-togethers here in Shaftesbury.
The women have become good friends. “I go to Making Space and that’s how we got to know each other,” Amanda said.
“We have had lots of discussions about mental health, talking about our mental health and the services that are available locally. We are ‘on the same page’ in lots of ways,” added Sue.
Both Sue and Amanda run their groups voluntarily but, inevitably, there are costs. That’s why the friends have arranged this joint fundraising event. “My group at the Royal British Legion have been incredibly helpful, but we have to pay a donation to them and not everybody can afford to pay enough to keep the hall, so I am hoping to have enough reserves to top it up. I have to pay for the printing of flyers and resources for the group as well,” said Amanda. The women will pool the money raised from Saturday’s jumble sale, raffle and tombola, and split it between the two groups. They have modest fundraising targets. “We spoke about £50 each at the start but I’m hoping to make more than that,” said Amanda.
“When you look at the raffle tickets that we have sold already, if I could get £130 for my half, then I want to buy some printmaking equipment so we can do some screen printing and linocuts, making T-shirts, bags and greeting cards. Being creative with printing, that’s what I’d like to get out of this,” said Sue.
The women have amassed a vast range of goods for the raffle and tombola. Amanda’s living room table was full of random goodies, rather like ‘The Generation Game’ conveyor belt. There was a cuddly toy as well as gin, champagne, chocolates, cushions from Hine and Parsons and a gift voucher from Squires.
The event takes place between 2pm and 4pm this Saturday, 8th February, at the Shaftesbury Football Club on Coppice Street. “We are hoping that lots of people will come. We will have the raffle draw at 3.30pm,” said Amanda.
“We’ve had lots of amazing donations of really good quality bric-a-brac, china and new clothes as well as the jumble clothes,” Sue added. “It will be a great place to get a bargain.” And knowing the pulling power of sweet treats, Sue added, “We will have lots of lovely cake!”