A CHARITY that has helped thousands of people cope with mental health problems is closing due to shortage of money to run its services.

Woking Mind has announced it will shut down by the end of August, as it is “proving extremely challenging to raise sufficient funds” to continue.

“The planned closure is a stark warning of the devastating impact that lack of funding can have for charities, which in turn affects those most in need of help,” said the chair of its trustees, Peter Christmas.

The charity – which is independent of the national Mind organisation – was founded in 1979. It has expanded to provide support groups, talking therapies, drop-in sessions, wellbeing courses and activities across Surrey.

It has so far helped around 800 people this year alone. Given the role it played during the pandemic, helping many people through the difficulties of lockdown, its loss will leave a big hole in local mental health services provision.

Woking Mind’s budget for 2021-22 was more than £520,000 and Mr Christmas said the fundraising shortfall is “very significant”. The challenge was being able to fund existing costs, as new grants were typically given only for new services that needed additional expenditure.

“This is amplified by the fact that the unrestricted funds, those that are not allocated to specific services, that we have are very limited,” he added.

“Many things have made funding difficult this year and the outlook is uncertain in terms of mental health funding for charities such as ourselves.”

Despite the continuing demand for Woking Mind’s services, its trustees had made the very difficult decision to close the charity.

The charity’s chief executive, Tony Bennett,said: “This is a very sad time for Woking Mind but, equally, we are proud of the role we have played over the last 40 years to support hundreds of local people every year with their mental health.

“We would like to thank all our staff, volunteers, and everyone who has worked tirelessly to support us over the years to make a meaningful impact to the lives of our clients.”

Borough councillor Liam Lyons chose Woking Mind for his mayoral charity when he was borough mayor for 2021-22. He was part of a team that raised around £10,000 for the organisation through a sponsored skydive last October.

“I am devastated to hear the news of the closure,” he said. “As I visited all corners of the borough during my mayoral year, people spoke of the value that Woking Mind gives to the community, and the esteem which that community holds it on account of its excellent and essential services.

“My biggest fear is that some people who have never needed mental health services do not understand how vital they are for some of the most vulnerable members of our community.

“The impact of this cannot always be measured in data and figures, and is often about steering people away from harmful, negative experiences.”

Cllr Lyons, a member of Woking Borough Council’s new Liberal Democrat executive committee, said the authority is considering how best it can support Woking Mind.

The charity is now trying to find alternative ways to continue its services, including approaching organisations such as national Mind and neighbouring similar mental health charities, that might be able to take on some of its work.