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This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme is loneliness.  

According to the Mental Health Foundation, loneliness in the UK during the COVID-19 lockdowns was almost three times higher than pre-pandemic levels.    

Mental Health Concern is here so no one has to struggle alone with their mental health, so we’re supporting people who might be feeling lonely or socially isolated through our services such as Chain Reaction, which we’re proud to lead in partnership with Search and KeyRing. 

Currently, Chain Reaction offers a range of support for over 200 older people in Newcastle, to help them connect with other people, stay active in the community, and improve their mental wellbeing. This support includes community group activities like art clubs, walking groups, reading groups, and coffee groups, as well as one-to-one support for people who need it. 

In 2022, over half of the people who accessed Chain Reaction’s support reported that loneliness or isolation is impacting their mental health. 

Following the COVID-19 lockdowns, many of the face-to-face activities provided by Chain Reaction had to be cancelled, so our team worked hard to find other ways to help tackle loneliness and isolation in older people. A telephone buddy support system was set up, where volunteers call people who are living alone to chat and offer friendship and company.  

As Covid restrictions have lifted, many of Chain Reaction’s in-person groups and activities are now back up and running, but there are still some older people who can’t go out, or feel uncomfortable in crowded places, who still need support at home.   

We are therefore looking for some volunteers to join our wonderful team of Befrienders, to chat to older people living on their own, and provide friendship, advice, and support in their day-to-day lives. Our Chain Reaction team is also looking for volunteers to help run the increasing number of community activities that are back in action across Newcastle, as well as one-to-one help for older people returning home from hospital who live alone and need extra help as they get settled.   

Michelle Ree, Team Lead at Chain Reaction, says: “We are very proud of the range of activities and support we offer older people in Newcastle, but following the pandemic, and a huge increase in loneliness in our older people, it is so important to provide the right support and friendship that our communities need.   

“Our volunteers are an incredible group of people who take time to talk to those who use our service, making sure they feel listened to, supported, and connected to their neighbourhood. Volunteering is a truly fulfilling activity, and Chain Reaction can offer a flexible way for people to give back to their communities.” 

If you’d like to find out more about volunteering for Chain Reaction, please call 0300 300 7070 or email michelle.ree@mentalhealthconcern.org. 

If you or someone you know might benefit from the support Chain Reaction offers, please call 0300 300 7070 for more details.   

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