Here writer Hadley expresses his sadness that LGBT+ mental health charity PACE – at which he interned – has been forced to close due to lack of government funding.

I found out the news on Facebook: PACE, the LGBT+ mental health charity, announced that it will be closing its doors for the last time. I’m sure for the many people who follow PACE on social media and found out about their closure, the news would have come as a shock. In fact, many people took to Twitter to thank the charity for what they’ve done to help them, whilst others expressed their deepest sadness.

For me, it felt as though I had lost a close friend.

It seems as though every day we are reading about another budget cut or public sector service closure. I guess this time the axe fell too close to home. PACE has fallen victim to yet another controversial governmental decision and it’s disgraceful! Yes, money is tight and there are some difficult choices to be made, but I strongly believe that the service users of PACE will be feeling extremely lost in the wake of this bombshell announcement. The Government need to look more closely at the effects of cutting such vital services – why is it that mental health services don’t seem to be high on its agenda?

Despite having worked at PACE for a short nine months, I feel truly privileged to have been part of this detrimental organisation. It was back in 2015 when I applied for my internship and, if I’m being honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was well into the swing of my university course and was looking to do something a little ‘out of the box’. Having gone on to do a scientific degree, I was missing that creative outlet in my life, which I got from creative writing. Although I have never had mental health issues, I have witnessed first-hand the effects of it upon some of my close friends. An internship at PACE was, therefore, an ideal way to support a cause I held so close to my heart.

Looking back, this internship wasn’t ‘just a job’. In fact, all of my colleagues at PACE weren’t just there to do a job – it was a vocation. Mental health is something that we still, to this day, struggle to talk about. We seem perfectly content talking about how we broke our leg falling down the stairs, but our ears don’t seem too comfortable hearing about how somebody is living with depression.

PACE’s work focussed on the mental health and wellbeing of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. Many LGBT people have spoken out about their mental health, allowing for the issue to be brought into conversation. But there are still many LGBT people living with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and self-harm. Everybody at PACE were acutely aware of this growing issue within our community.

In fact, PACE went on to undertake ground breaking research, looking at mental health amongst LGBT people. This research subsequently went on to influence organisations and individuals across the United Kingdom and further afield. I’m sure that this research will form part of PACE’s legacy for years to come.

My memories at PACE are happy ones. I remember attending a meeting on my first day and how it was stopped half way through because the Chair had forgotten to introduce me. Everyone went round and introduced themselves. I was shocked. I have worked in junior positions before and I’m used to people calling me by my job title, never mind pausing a meeting to make sure that everyone knew my name.

Leaving PACE was an extremely difficult decision for me. Other commitments meant that I didn’t have enough time to continue my work there. My leaving card stands proudly on my bookshelf and reminds me every day of the important work we all achieved together.

It is thanks to my two line managers at PACE, that I continue to write today. They restored my confidence in writing and allowed me to go on to write about LGBT issues for a wider audience. Hopefully the thousands of words that I wrote for PACE and the countless future words I will write, will go some way to inspire or reassure LGBT people.

My final thoughts go to my colleagues and friends who are affected by this closure. I am yet to find a more accepting and open-minded group of talented and passionate role models. You are all inspirations to somebody out there, so don’t give up the work you are doing.

Thank you PACE for your 31 years of support, love and care. You will be truly missed.