NORTH Belfast has been identified as ‘one of the loneliest areas of the UK’ by the the British Red Cross.
The charity found that North Belfast was one of 39 areas where help is needed the most. The North Belfast Community Connector service will tackle loneliness and social isolation in the area.
The Red Cross is calling on local residents to support their community by giving a few hours a week to the new service, which over the next 18 months will provide vital support for around 200 adults of all ages who have no one to turn to.
Carrie Mulligan is one of the national team of over 50 staff and 500 volunteers who will deliver the Red Cross’ new Community Connector services. Carrie has considerable experience working with disadvantaged young people in the area but believes that loneliness spans all ages and socio-economic groups.
“Loneliness and isolation can affect anyone and is very debilitating and harmful,” she explained.
“I think the great thing about this new project is that it’s open to anyone from age 18 to 80 and people can even self-refer. That means you don’t have to wait for a doctor or health professional to assist you in finding help. If you know you are feeling lonely and isolated you, or someone close to you, can pick up the phone and ask for help directly.
“Many people know within themselves that they need to get out and about more and that socialising will be beneficial for their mental health and wellbeing, but it can be hard to make those first steps. That’s what I’m there for.”
Carrie and her colleagues will provide practical and emotional support to help people who are lonely and isolated connect with others in their communities. This will involve helping them to discover and access local activities and services and enjoy the benefits of being more involved in the area.
Further volunteers from North Belfast are needed to support the new service. Requiring a commitment of just a couple of hours a week, volunteer support will be invaluable in helping local people affected by loneliness feel more confident and able to reconnect with their community.
For more information about volunteering, or to help someone affected by loneliness or social isolation receive support, contact the British Red Cross Community Connector service on 028 9073 5350 or ConnectBelfast@redcross.org.uk