Mayor and Trust Chair highlight The Gift of Community this Christmas

Monday 18 December 2023

Members of Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network were delighted to welcome the Mayor Gerardine Mulvennna and Anne O’Reilly, Northern Health and Social Care Trust Chair, to their meeting held today (Monday 18 December).

Anne O’Reilly (Northern Health and Social Care Trust Chair), The Mayor Ald Gerardine Mulvenna, Marjorie Hawkins (Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network Chairperson), Hugh Nelson (Head of Community Wellbeing NHSCT).

The meeting aimed to highlight the good work of the Loneliness Network over the past year and to encourage people to look out for each other during the festive period and beyond.

Christmas is usually a joyful time of the year when family and friends come together to celebrate and exchange gifts. However, Christmas can also be a very lonely time for many people of all ages and not only is loneliness an unpleasant experience, evidence also suggests it is as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

The Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network is committed to supporting its population to live well within cohesive and well-connected communities and has developed a number of initiatives to help address loneliness.

The Network launched in December 2019 and is made up of a range of community voluntary and statutory organisations who all work together to prevent and address loneliness.

Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network has been instrumental in supporting those feeling lonely and isolated throughout the Borough.   

Recognising that loneliness impacts on people of all ages, the Network has rolled out 16 Chatty benches, 13 Chatty Cafes and five Kindness Postboxes, to date. 

This autumn after receiving funding from the Northern Health Trust, they have been able to fund the following:

  • MEABC Parks and Open Spaces - Finding your feet
  • MEABC - Dixon Park Partnership
  • Access Employment Ltd - Crafts for Wellness
  • Larne Community Development Project - Weeding out Loneliness
  • Start 360 - Start 360 Festive Friends Project

The Mayor said: “I am delighted to have been able to support Mid and East Antrim Loneliness Network today, especially coming up to Christmas, and I know their work makes a big difference to the people involved struggling with loneliness and social isolation.”

Anne O’Reilly, Trust Chair, added “The impact of loneliness is now recognised as having detrimental effects to our health and wellbeing. If each of us could commit to do one small thing this Christmas to reach out to those who are socially isolated and lonely, we could help change the course of these individuals’ lives.”

So, in this season of goodwill, please spare a thought for those in your community who may be feeling lonely this Christmas. Here are some simple things you could do that would make a big difference to someone’s life! You may also have other ideas of your own.

  • Deliver a Christmas card/gift to a neighbour and stop for a chat.
  • Buy or bake some mince pies and visit someone who lives on their own this Christmas.
  • Check on elderly neighbours over the festive period especially in bad weather to see if they need help with food supplies or their prescriptions.
  • Become a volunteer in your community.

If you or someone you know is in distress please contact Lifeline 24/7 FREEphone on T: 0808 808 8000 for confidential help and support.