Published: 06:00, 12 May 2021
| Updated: 09:52, 13 May 2021
An organisation founded by a mum dedicated to supporting people with mental health problems after her son took his own life has reached a significant milestone.
Tommy Thwaites, from Maidstone, died in 2019 aged 25, spurring his mum Claire Fry to set up Tommy's Rainbow Trust, a community interest company, just over a year later.
She describes the trust as filling the "huge gap in the system" and acting as a go-between for patients and different health services, to take the stress away from them or their parents.
In March, Claire and her team of volunteers moved into their first office, at 19-21 Albion Place, in Maidstone, where people can book appointments to visit.
Since February, the number of volunteers has grown from a handful to 14, including one of Tommy's friends.
Claire said: "They are so passionate and they have all got a story to tell, whether it's a loved one or a partner, they have someone who has suffered with mental health."
Since December the team has helped and spoken to around 1,000 clients.
Claire added: "I am still grieving for my son but Tommy would have wanted me to do this.
"He would have wanted me to help someone else in the system that's failing.
"Tommy would have been so proud.
"One patient bought me a cake and said 'if it wasn't for you I wouldn't be here'. I thought that was very touching."
Tommy, a former Valley Park pupil, dreamed of working on board a cruise ship but was attacked by a gang in a nightclub after receiving abuse about his sexuality.
Afterwards, his mum says his mental health deteriorated. Tommy, who Claire described as “happy go-lucky and chatty", battled his demons for four years before taking his life.
She believes the health services let Tommy down and her experience inspired her to start the trust.
Speaking previously about her motivation, she said: “Multiple agencies need to work together because people are getting lost in the system. I know about mental health services. With Tommy we were pushed from pillar to post, I was going round in circles.”
The trust does not diagnose clients but rather contacts a GP and gets the wheels in motion for them to get help.
Sometimes people may not need medical help but just someone to speak to, such as bereaved parents.
Claire, who since February has been working with prisoners with mental health problems at Bronzefield, in Ashford, and Belmarsh, in London, ultimately wants to be able to expand the trust.
She hopes to move into a bigger office nearby, with the eventual aim of creating a drop-in centre and expanding to others parts of the country.
So far, funds have been ploughed into the costs associated with starting up the organisation, such as insurance and training.
To date, applications for grant funding have been unsuccessful but Claire, who has four sons, including Tommy, who is also remembered with a multi-coloured seating area unveiled in Maidstone to combat isolation, remains hopeful.
In February, the trust was down to just £400 but funds have since been boosted thanks to ticket sales for upcoming fundraisers. The first will be a UB40 night on July 23 at Larkfield Priory.
To get one of the remaining tickets to the UB40 night, ring the office on 01622 826909.
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