Ashton mother’s award from Prime Minister is for everyone in charity

AN ASHTON-UNDER-LYNE mother given a prestigious award from Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is adamant it is for everyone at the charity set up in her son’s memory.

And the fight to support people living with mental health issues will not stop.

Donna Thomas is the recipient of a Points of Light award, which was presented by the town’s MP, Angela Rayner – who asked to hand it over personally – for her role in setting up and running the Anthony Seddon Fund.

But while she was named individually, to her it was group recognition as her son’s name lives on and does great things for the community.

Even for those tasked with supporting those living with mental health issues.

Donna, whose son took his own life in 2013 at the age of 30 after 12 years of struggling with bipolar disorder, with the charity formed a year later, told The Correspondent: “For the first year after Anthony died, we were raising money for Mind as you don’t know what to do.

Donna Thomas of the Anthony Seddon fund in Ashton-under-Lyne

“But slowly, we got busier and busier and after a year it was like, ‘We’re going to have to register as a charity now.’

“It was never planned but you know the need, it’s just when you’re supporting your own child you can’t think about putting that investment into anyone else.

“But when he died, we were like, ‘We’re not having him die for nothing.’

“Anthony was under mental health services but our attitude has been, ‘They can’t do it on their own. They need the support of the community.’

“It’s an ongoing fight. They want to be part of the community – I’m seeing the people providing the support themselves are getting ore burnt out. They need it just as much.”

Volunteers and service users gathered at the Anthony Seddon Centre on George Street for the presentation.

The award is recognition of what it provides, with a drop-in service busiest but also running sewing, arts, meditation, craft, guitar jamming and creative writing sessions.

It also has a moving on group, which helps people overcome alcohol addiction, men’s and ladies’ peer support and helps users connect with other services.

And the volunteers could not be praised highly enough as Donna received the award.

She added: “We have 300-400 people a week come through our door, more than you’d imagine. Our drop-in is generally packed.

“And the volunteering, for me, is the most important part of what we do.

“Most of our volunteers have some sort of mental health issue or have cared for someone who has – several have kind of been written off.

“Unless you tell someone, you wouldn’t know as we’re normal people and sometimes we’re ill.

“A volunteering role allows you to not feel guilty about having time off. It takes away that pressure of when you’re in work.

“Getting the award is absolutely incredible. I’m one of many and I absolutely couldn’t do this on my own.

“That’s why the celebration was for everyone. It’s recognition from someone who doesn’t know us, from someone who hadn’t been helped by us but can see the work the volunteers are doing.”

In a personal letter to Donna, Mr Sunak said: “After the terrible loss of your son Anthony, you have transformed that personal tragedy into a positive force which is helping so many people in your community improve their mental wellbeing.

“Over 200 people every week are now accessing the centre you have created in Anthony’s memory. It is wonderful that people of all ages now have a place to open up, find mental health support and take up volunteering opportunities.”

And as she presented the award, Angela Rayner added: “I am incredibly proud of Donna.

“‘The Anthony Seddon Fund strives to improve the quality of life of those affected by mental health issues, their families, friends and carers in Tameside by promoting their physical and mental health through support, education, practical advice and signposting to other local services.

“In my role as MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, I have visited the charity many times and seen first-hand the extremely valuable work they do to help people at their time of need.

“I am in awe of the way Donna turned her private heartbreak into something so positive in her bid to make sure others going through similar experiences would be able to find vital help and support.

“She is an extremely deserving recipient of the Points of Light Award and she makes me so proud to represent her as her MP.”

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