JUST months after a Bolton mental health charity marked its silver anniversary, vulnerable clients have learned its services may be cut.

MhIST (Mental Health Independent Support Team), which is based in Hanover Street, celebrated 25 years of achievement in October with the unveiling of a plaque by the Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Roger Hayes.

But now the future of its self-help group sessions hangs in the balance.

In previous years, the charity has been funded by the Tudor Trust, but this supply has now been exhausted.

The charity’s CEO, Mr Melvin Bradley, said: “We have a very good lottery fund bid being processed at the moment so we approached the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) for a one-off injection of £33,000 money to see us through.”

The CCG is to meet with Bolton Council to decide whether the funding will be made available.

The self-help group sessions, which attract around 150 clients a week, are “a lifeline”, according to one of their volunteer facilitators.

“If the groups have to stop it will be heart-breaking. There’s already been a lot of tears at the thought of it,” said Miss Alison Henderson, who runs four art therapy sessions a week.

“There’s a massive need for it in Bolton. We will all be devastated if we have to close. For some people, the classes are the only time they ever leave their home.

Miss Henderson, who is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, added: “When clients first start using the service, a lot of them are very withdrawn and have no self-esteem but the sessions have a massive impact on boosting their confidence.

“The sessions are designed to help clients stop self-harming. Lifelong friendships have been made and its therapeutic because we talk about issues while making paper craft.

“Many of my ladies continue their craftwork at home which serves as a distraction and stops them turning to self-harm.”

The charity believes withholding funding would be short-sighted because, in the longer-term, the sessions actually benefit the NHS by saving it money.

A survey of 35 of MhIST’s clients revealed that in the year before using the service they visited A&E 800 times, had 1,200 GP appointments and 75pc had suicidal thoughts or made suicide attempts.

Since accessing MhIST, these figures have fallen to 80, 300 and 25pc, respectively.

In addition, 34 out of the 35 clients said they felt isolated before using MhIST but now only one of them feels this way.

One service user told The Bolton News: “I was a victim of child sex abuse and I’ve been using the centre for the past three years.

“It is a real lifeline and is used by soldiers with post-traumatic-stress disorder, victims of abuse and those with mental health issues.

“It is somewhere secure where we can go and express our problems.”

He said users would be “lost” without the service and it would put their health at risk.

Apart from the self-help group sessions, which are run by 15 volunteers, MhIST also operates 1:1 talk therapy, advocacy and volunteering opportunities for clients. These will not be affected by the funding crisis.

Mr Bradley said: “Community mental health teams, psychiatrists and counselling services refer many people to us and to say they will be devastated if we have to stop the self-help groups is an understatement.”

Miss Henderson added: “We all see it is a family and we don’t want that family breaking up.”