Happy to Chat Benches

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Happy to Chat Benches

To mark Mental Health Awareness Week, Ashington Women’s Institute (WI), is launching ‘Happy to Chat’ benches to help combat the loneliness and social isolation affecting over 9 million people in the UK.

“We have recognised the impact that Covid 19 has had on people’s mental health, some people are still not sure whether to join in activities they once loved, and so these benches are a way for people to socialise in the open air.” Explained Michelle Brannigan of Ashington WI.

We have selected six benches across the town, with which the ‘Happy to Chat’ signs will be displayed on them, reading ‘sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello’.  The areas we have chosen are areas, that have a nature aspect to them as well as locations where there is heavy footfall. The idea is a simple one that encourages park-goers and passers-by to strike up a conversation and make a connection with someone new, promoting happy and friendly communities in Ashington. We have also included the free telephone number for the Samaritans and a 24/7 text number for Shout for anyone that is in crisis.

Ashington WI’s campaign is launching to coincide with Mental Health Awareness week which runs from 9th-15th May.  Lead by the Mental Health Foundation, the annual event is an opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on achieving good mental health. By offering a relaxed space in which to talk, ‘Happy to Chat’ benches can break the vicious cycle linking loneliness and mental health, help communities take care of each other and encourage people to get out into the fresh air – all of which has been proven to boost self-esteem as well as mood.

Mark Purvis Chair of Ashington Town Council said “This is a compassionate, community-led scheme that has quickly spread around the globe, I’m really proud Ashington WI are trialling six ‘Happy to Chat’ benches in Ashington. If it takes off, we hope they can roll out the scheme to other locations, making the most of the beautiful scenery right on our doorstep.”

As part of the launch Ashington WI will be welcoming people to come along to their tea and talk event, which will be held in the Pavillion at Hirst Park, Ashington on the 9th May from 10:30 – 12:30.

“We hope to see lots of people coming along to the beautiful Hirst Park, where we will be on hand to lend a friendly ear and have a natter about anything they like.” Said Sheila Screaton President of Ashington WI.

If you would like to get involved with the launch event, please contact us at: ashingtonwi1950@gmail.com

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