Ballymena ‘Chatty Bench’ set to become a real talking point
Ballymena has had its first ‘Chatty Bench’ installed in the town centre
Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network launched the bench to mark ‘Loneliness Awareness’ week.
Located at Wellington Street in Ballymena, the ‘Chatty Bench’ is brightly painted yellow and has a plaque with a unique QR code linking users to useful information on the Loneliness Network.
The Network also installed one in Larne.
Deputy Mayor Cllr 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. I am delighted to have participated in launching two more in Larne Town Park and on Wellington Street, I look ahead with anticipation for others to follow in the Mid and East Antrim Borough soon.”
Sabrina Lynn from the Norther Health and Social Care Trust said: “1 in 3 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. “
Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network Chairperson Marjorie Hawkins 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.
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.”
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.