VOLUNTEERS are collecting old drinking cans to exchange for money in a bid to keep a beloved mental health charity afloat.

The cans can be sold to a scrap yard to raise money for Behind the Smile, a mental health charity, which needs more money and volunteers.

The founder of Behind the Smile, Gaynor Pritchard, said: "We are going to take the cans to a specific scrapyard who will give us £100 for 50kg.

"People have been collecting from what they have been drinking, but one member, Paul Smith, has been collecting them from car parks and streets in Worcester.

"Obviously funds are limited, we did do more but I need volunteers to be able to do more."

Gaynor does the admin work for Behind the Smile, which offers peer support groups to help people struggling with their mental health. 

She added: "Lots of people like Paul are asking for more of our groups.

"He and others who are living alone are lonely and it exasperates their mental health.

"There are certain things going on in other organisations, but we're the only peer support group. The others have closed down.

"We're trying to raise the funds to keep us sustainable and keep us going."

Behind the Smile supports anyone in the community suffering from mental health problems or feelings of loneliness.

Gaynor founded Behind the Smile in memory of her son Zac', who battled mental heath issues and took his own life.

She added: "I wanted to help others in a similar situation, as when looking for support suitable for Zac, there was none. I took advice from various professionals and worked with Mind’s Side by Side project to set up a Mental Health Peer support group.

"We have run our groups all through lockdown, when we first started in 2019 before the first lockdown we had about six people, we then tried to get a venue to meet, so met in cafés, parks, gardens etc.

"We do activities and have speakers, we are doing art tasters in February."

Volunteer Anne Powell said: "We have been collecting the cans since the summer, although they have slowed down as not many are drunk in winter, so it seems.

"Once the cans come to me, I test them to see if they are aluminium as tin ones are no good. So far only one can has been no good.

"At the present time I have 20kg in my outside toilet all bagged up.  I''m not too sure how many Sally has weight wise. 

"Our end total is 50kg. Once we have them they will be taken to a local scrapyard and exchanged for £100 to go towards our funds.

"If more people were involved, we would have reached our target quicker!"

Paul Smith, 56, a member of Behind the Smile, said: "I'm on my tenth carrier bag full of tin cans.

"I think I'm doing the city a favour, I'm helping the environment.

"It's amazing how many cans are strewn around the streets.

"We have absolutely nothing for mental health in Worcester at the moment, all we have are peer support groups. 

"Covid doesn't help either, so I've been going round my area and car parks and ridding them of cans."

Paul thoroughly enjoys attending the peer support groups that Gaynor sets up.

He added: "We're a chill and chat support group so you're allowed tea and coffee and sometimes we chip in and bring tins of biscuits.

"I took my birthday cake in last year and shared it with everyone, we do things like that. 

"Most of all, I like the social side. I'm a social person and I like the interaction."