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New “Chatty Bench” installed in Dungannon Park to mark Loneliness Awareness week

Mid Ulster Loneliness Network has placed its first ‘Chatty Bench’ in the Mid Ulster district, with the support of Mid Ulster District Council, marking this year’s Loneliness Awareness Week (14 – 18 June).

Situated in the popular and picturesque surrounds of Dungannon Park, the special bench has been introduced to provide a place for people to come together to have a chat. Two other benches are also included in other sites within the park.

Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Paul McLean welcomed the first chatty benches in the Mid Ulster district, saying:

“The restrictions of the past 18 months have exacerbated the experience of loneliness and isolation for many people. Some people may go days or even weeks without the simplest of human contact, so the installation of Chatty Benches here in Dungannon Park is a timely initiative as it seeks to break down that social barrier and allow us all to say hello.

“It is our hope that it will be a way of tackling loneliness by encouraging people who may be experiencing it to connect with others, and for others not experiencing loneliness to recognise that starting a welcomed conversation can bring so much to another person’s day.”

Sandra McKenna, Chair of the Mid Ulster Loneliness Network, said,

“As a volunteer for Agewell I witness increasing levels of loneliness on a daily basis. The Mid Ulster Loneliness Network members are totally committed to addressing this issue through many different initiatives. These are our first Chatty Benches to be installed, and we intend to place more in different towns throughout the district.”

The project is also supported by both the Northern and Southern Health and Social Care Trusts Neil Gillan, Promoting Wellbeing Locality Manager – Armagh and Dungannon at the Southern Trust added his support for the new benches in Dungannon Park, saying:

‘The Southern Trust recognises that loneliness and social isolation can affect anyone, irrespective of their age and stage of life.  We hope the Chatty Benches encourage conversation and makes it easier for people who feel alone to connect with other members of their local community.’

Yvonne Carson, Thematic Lead for Loneliness in the Northern Trust added

“Chatty Benches are designed to help tackle loneliness and support positive mental health within the community. We hope the Chatty Benches will be seen as a place for people to come together to chat and connect and be the first of many in the Mid Ulster district.”

Dungannon Park is a 70 acre oasis centred round an idyllic stream fed lake only 2 miles from Dungannon town centre.  The park is open from 8.30am – 9.30pm from now until October, when it moves to closing at 5.30pm for winter. Further information on the network can be obtained by emailing mulnetwork@northerntrust.hsni.net

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