MILFORD Haven School are proud to be launching ‘Chat Benches’ within the community that serves their school catchment area.
If you walk through Milford Haven, Neyland or Johnston in the coming weeks you will notice some new benches with an exciting twist. The ‘Happy to Chat’ bench will say: sit here if you don’t mind someone stopping to say hello.
These benches are clearly marked so that people are encouraged to take a seat and start a conversation.
More than nine million people in the UK say they “often or always” feel lonely, according to the British Red Cross, and in 2013 then-Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt described loneliness as “our national shame.”
The geography of Pembrokeshire means that many residents are at an increased risk of loneliness and social isolation, and it is hoped that the ‘Chat Benches’ will offer a platform to start up conversations and strengthen links within communities, reducing the disconnect that some local residents might feel from the world around them.
Public benches like these can be a real asset to help improve people’s mental health and social wellbeing.
They serve as resting places for those with limited mobility, and a study published by the university of Sheffield in 2015 found sitting on benches allows people to spend longer outside, which is beneficial for mental health and connects them with others in their community. This is particularly important for people who find popular social venues like cafes too expensive.
Ms Mansell said: “I love the fact that as a community we now have designated spaces for people to take a moment, reflect, and connect, especially in a society that often never seems to stop and be present.”
Ms Morris, Headteacher of Milford Haven School said she was excited that they were able to base a ‘Chat Bench’ at the secondary School. She added: “Although loneliness is often talked about as an issue that affects the elderly, we know that young people can also at times feel alone and may need a safe place to reach out and connect with those around them.
“Tomorrow (February 6, 2020), is national ‘Time to Talk’ day, the perfect day we feel to launch our ‘Chat Benches’ and get the conversations flowing.”
One bench is to go to Johnston, one to Neyland, two to Milford Haven and one to be based at the school.
Milford Haven Town Council has already discussed the benches at their last meeting on Monday (January 27), and they agreed to invite organisations from the area to express an interest in having one of the benches.