A MENTAL health charity faced with an uncertain future after seeing its entire funding withdrawn is calling on the people of Swindon to enter its first charity walk to keep its vital helpline alive.

SUNS had to explore new sources of income to continue to provide crucial emotional and psychological support to service users across town and beyond after losing its £92,000 annual grant from Swindon Council.

The charity is now urging residents to take part in its first sponsored walk on May 18. Challengers will set off from Barbury Castle in Wroughton at 10am and complete a 20-mile round course in a bid to collect funds to save SUNS from possible closure.

SUNS lost its council funding for both its charity work and the running of its Listening Line following a wave of budget cuts. The organisation received its last quarterly grant in November.

“We are doing this to raise money for the Listening Line, which has proved to be a lifeline for people,” said chairman Ann Mooney.

“It was set up for people who need someone to talk to and to stop them getting into a critical situation.

“We have saved many people’s lives and losing the Listening Line would be a great loss to Swindon.

“Our funding was cut but luckily we have been saving and we have got enough to keep us going but not for long. We have enough for between six and eight months.

“At the moment I keep going out and collecting money and every little helps but we need £92,000 to run both SUNS and the Listening Line.”

Listening Line was launched as a pilot five years ago financed by a government grant of around £30,000. It was later funded by Swindon Council, Ann explained. Each night the line receives between 50 and 150 calls from people suffering from depression, anxiety or people on the verge of ending their lives.

The charity, which had two paid members of staff answering calls each night, had to make sacrifices and three employees now take turns covering several nights each week on their own.

“Originally we had two people a night and it was available seven days a week including Christmas Day between 6pm and midnight,” added Ann.

“We get so many calls that two people were already struggling. And now we only have one person a night and a volunteer and I take over if need be. And we would ideally be running during the day at the weekend.

“We are there to listen to people and talk to them and make them feel that there is someone there to help who cares. Some people call when they are feeling lonely but we deal with anything from bereavement to marriage splits, domestic violence, sexual abuse, attempted suicide, mental health problems and depression.

“There is no limit to how many times someone can call in one night, if talking to us is what gets them through the night. That’s part of our uniqueness.”

To register call Margaret on 01793 436174 or Ann on 07738 218434.

Swindon Listening Line can be reached on 01793 332520 or email help@swindonlisteningline.org To donate to SUNS visit www.swindonsuns.org and click on the Virgin Money giving link.