SHWI’s chosen charity for 2017 was Mental Health Action Group Sheffield (MHAGS). The charity started as a campaign group set up by Dorothy Gilman in the 1980’s under the name Mental Illness Action Group. In 1992 Tim Jones set MHAGS up as a day centre after NHS cuts resulted in the partial closures of mental health day centres across the local region. Tim still volunteers at MHAGS as lead campaigner and project coordinator, and was there to show me around their Hillsborough based premises when I went to visit them.
They currently run as a drop-in centre, providing hot meals (with food donations from Fareshare) and support to local people who are suffering from mental health conditions. Some of MHAGS’s service users are not just affected by mental health conditions, but also learning difficulties and other disabilities. In the past, MHAGS were able to offer day trips, activities and workshops to their service users, as well as access to psychiatric nurses who would be put on placement with the charity. The walls of MHAGS HQ are covered in artwork made by service users in the past. There’s a trophy shelf showing off the accomplishments of the sports teams MHAGS used to run. The office has files full of photographs developed in the darkroom MHAGS used to have.
Unfortunately, Sheffield Council are no longer funding MHAGS and now they do not have the money to run the charity in the same way they did in the past. Having been based in the city centre for many years, MHAGS is now less conveniently located up a hill on the Langsett Estate. Whilst the building itself has disabled access, the new location has proved difficult for some service users to get to. They are looking to start new groups in the near future in order to support their service users, such as a gardening group and a tropical fish-keeping group – the main room in the centre is full of donated tanks of beautiful tropical fish.
But the reality is that without funding, MHAGS wil have to close. This is a unique, “user-led” centre providing friendly support to some of the most vulnerable adults in Sheffield.
Therefore, I just want to thank everyone and anyone who has helped us raise money for MHAGS in the past 12 months. We’ve raised over £3000 for them so far and the final total will be made available in March.
If you want to learn more about them, check out https://www.mhagsheffield.org/