Chatty Bench installed in Larne Town Park to help those experiencing loneliness

A ‘Chatty Bench’ has been unveiled in Larne Town Park to mark Loneliness Awareness Week.

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 12:06 pm

The bench is painted yellow and has a plaque with a unique QR code linking users to useful information on the Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network initiative, which is behind the initiative.

The Deputy Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Matthew Armstrong, said: “The Chatty Benches initiative is one of many that aim to engage people in activities to minimise their sense of isolation. The ethos behind it is to encourage anyone who wants to engage in conversation with someone to sit down on the bench and just have a chat.”

Cllr Armstrong added that he looks ahead with anticipation for others to follow in the borough soon.

Paul Mawhinney, parks manager Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Sonia McCrory and the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Matthew Armstrong, unveiling the Chatty Bench in Larne.

Sabrina Lynn, from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, said: “One in three people in Northern Ireland are likely to experience feelings of loneliness in their lifetime (NISRA). Throughout this difficult year of lockdown, isolation and restrictions on our social activities, human contact has been limited which has impacted upon our mental health.

“The challenges the pandemic has created in terms of creating loneliness in communities is something that the Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network aims to tackle. “

The Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network was formed in late 2019, it is a collaboration of community, voluntary and statutory organisations committed to combating loneliness and addressing vulnerabilities in people of all ages across all walks of life.

Marjorie Hawkins, chairperson of Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network, said: “We recognise that everyone is likely to experience some feelings of loneliness in their lifetime. Often seen as a problem faced traditionally by older people, loneliness is a different kind of pandemic that is also non-discriminatory and can be detrimental to many lives. Tackling this is a mission that the Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network is deeply committed to.”

Chatty Benches have also been provided in Carrickfergus and Ballymena.

Yvonne Carson, Northern Health and Social Care Trust, stated: “We hope that the ‘Chatty Benches’ continue to be enjoyed by all in the community and if you see someone sitting down on it, sit down and have a chat with them, it’s the first step to helping someone feel a bit less lonely. Happy chatting.”

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