Portsmouth Fellowship celebrates 33Â years of helping the vulnerable
'˜Love, friendship and kindness.'
That's how the chairman of The Fellowship, Portsmouth's support group for adults with mental health problems, describes her beloved association.
'˜It's a chance for friends to get together - everyone understands each other,' she says.
Thelma Turner-Hill, of Southsea, chairs the group which is celebrating its 35th year of helping those who have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. And on December 4, The Fellowship celebrated its history, their founder and each other.
'˜The Fellowship was founded by Audree Trimmer in 1985, who lived in Southsea for most of her life. We met because we worked together and both of our sons had mental health problems.
'˜She encouraged me to join the group, which was then called the National Schizophrenia Fellowship and is now known as Rethink. The support I received was wonderful and, at the time, that was the only support group for the mentally ill in Portsmouth,' explains Thelma.
In 1989, Audree also set up the The Compass Carers' Group to provide respite for carers, and it is still running today.
Seventeen years ago, Audree left Southsea behind for a life in Canada, where she lived with her family. Audree died two weeks ago but Thelma is adamant her legacy will live on within The Fellowship.
'˜Audree was a truly unique woman. She was a great campaigner for those affected by mental illnesses,' says Thelma.
'˜The Fellowship still meets four times a year to get old friends together. Quite often family and friends don't recognise people with mental health problems - they don't look different to anyone else. But they get a lot of support here.'
The Fellowship met for the final time in 2018 and celebrated in style at The Queen's Hotel, Southsea.
'˜More than 60 people attended this happy event. We were treated like royalty, the lunch was magnificent and were entertained by The Pompey Pluckers,' says Thelma.
'˜It was a lovely Christmas occasion. We raised our tea-cups to thank Audree.'
Thelma organises these events with the help of Katy Walsh from Portsmouth City Council, Sally Rumfitt from The Mental Health Team, at Rethink Portsmouth and Rachel Hale from The Carers' Centre, Portsmouth.
'˜Caring for someone with a mental health problem is difficult and heartbreaking, and living with the illness more so,' says Thelma.
'˜Not much sympathy or understanding is shown to those with mental health problems, but it is a pleasure that we can bring some happiness and cheer into their lives.
'˜Many years ago, you didn't have any support. But now we can offer that.'