Five brightly painted ‘Chatty Benches’ have been installed across the borough to help bring local people together.
It comes thanks to a partnership between Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council and the ABC Loneliness Network.
Located in The Palace Demesne, Solitude Park, Lurgan Park, Edenvilla Park and Tannaghmore Gardens, the new Chatty Benches offer a spot for people to come together for a chat, helping reduce their sense of loneliness and isolation.
Chair of council’s Leisure and Community Services, Councillor Keith Haughian commented: “The coronavirus pandemic has played a significant role in triggering increased levels of loneliness and isolation on a local level.
“While we worked together to stay safe and save lives, many of us found ourselves spending less time with friends and family.
“By breaking down social barriers and encouraging people to connect and chat, the Chatty Benches initiative is a small but very effective way of tackling loneliness and isolation.
“Painted bright yellow, the benches also have a QR Code that takes users to online mental health support resources, offering a range of useful information on looking after our mental and emotional wellbeing.
“I would encourage you all to try our new Chatty Benches, take a moment to slow down, strike up a conversation and connect with those around us.”
Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Loneliness Network Chairperson, Sinead Taylor, said: “Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Loneliness Network and the Southern Health and Social Care Trust are very excited to be involved in the Chatty Benches initiative. The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a dramatic rise in cases of loneliness.
“We want to raise awareness of the issue and encourage moments of interaction to support those who have experienced loneliness, even a small hello can break down barriers and bring about conversations with people. A small moment of connection can help lighten the effects of loneliness for somebody who is struggling.
“We would encourage you to use the Chatty Benches which can make a difference to you and others in overcoming loneliness.”
Proposed initially by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, the initiative was led by ABC Council and ABC Loneliness Network, and funded by Department for Communities.