Mid and East Antrim network’s new tackling loneliness campaign
A new seven-week awareness campaign to help combat isolation in the community has been launched by the Mid and East Antrim (MEA)Loneliness Network.
The network is a collaboration of organisations committed to addressing vulnerabilities in people of all ages and from all walks of life.
The initiative comes when the impact of loneliness has been more widely felt right across society during the Covid-19 crisis with the British Red Cross recently calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to develop a cross-departmental strategy to tackle the problem.
A report by the charity, ‘The Longest Year: Life under local restrictions’, highlighted the lack of social contact with others during the pandemic and the negative effect it has had on people’s mental health as one of the biggest challenges associated with lockdown regulations.
Throughout the coronavirus emergency, MEA Loneliness Network has been working to ensure at-risk groups, particularly teenagers and young adults, as well as those living alone, feel more connected and supported through a range of initiatives which have included a social inclusion tablet project, art packs, afternoon tea boxes, salad growing kits and emotional wellbeing boxes for young people.
After receiving funding from the Northern Health and Social Care Trust (NHSCT), the network has been able to run six projects including:
Larne Community Development Re-Connecting Communities ‘Afternoon Tea Boxes’; Good Morning Carrickfergus winter gift packs; Good Morning Ballymena doorstep friendship calendars and ‘Thinking of You’ cards; Northern Area Community Network (NACN) homemade cards for Christmas; Redeeming Our Community (ROC) Larne Community Helpers ‘Keeping Well at Home’ packs and MEA Borough Council Connected ‘Walks and talk’.
The network, which brings together council and the NHSCT, along with a range of community, voluntary and statutory organisations, has developed a handy guide to the support and services available within the borough and across Northern Ireland, for anyone who finds themselves struggling.
The awareness campaign will also roll out across council’s social media channels.
Alderman Gerardine Mulvenna, council’s Dementia champion and MEA Loneliness Network representative, encouraged everyone to make themselves aware of the wealth of local resources.
“The work of Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network has never been more important as we continue to make our way through the social, economic and health impacts of the pandemic.
“Loneliness can affect every one of us, no matter what age we are, but we know that there are certain groups of people, including young adults, those with a disability, those living in homes where there is domestic violence, the elderly as well as those suffering from dementia and their carers, who are more at risk of feeling isolated and alone.
“But the message we want to get across through the MEA Loneliness Network, is that help is available and you are never alone. One of Council’s key objectives through our Corporate Plan is creating a strong, vibrant, safe and inclusive community, and providing our citizens with access to support and services at a local level is a major element in that.
Sabrina Lynn, Health and Wellbeing Locality lead (Antrim & Ballymena) for the NHSCT, said: “On behalf of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust it is excellent to see the launch of this campaign across the Borough. This collaborative approach highlights what can be achieved by working together and it is vital that we continue to work in this way in order to address the issue of isolation and loneliness across Mid and East Antrim.
“I would encourage anyone who feels like they are struggling, or who has a family member or friend in need, to please log on to this wonderful resource at www.midandeastantrim.gov.uk/MEALonelinessNetwork and take the first step to connecting with others and beating those feelings of isolation.”
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