Belfast policing body offers Holylands residents head massages

The therapy followed crowds descending on the mainly student area of south Belfast for St Patrick's Day

A POLICING body has offered head massages to residents affected by anti-social behaviour in the Holylands area of south Belfast.

The unusual offer to beleaguered residents follows last week's significant PSNI operation as crowds of young people descended on the mainly student area for St Patrick's Day.

Fifteen arrests were made in the Holylands and city centre over the holiday for a range of public order offences.

The 'Feel Safer Taster Sessions' were made available yesterday by the Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP).

A letter promoting the event read: "South Belfast District Policing and Community Safety Partnership knows that ongoing anti-social behaviour and crime can really impact on your quality of life and we're looking at practical ways we can help!

"You're invited to attend a taster session to explore complimentary therapies like head massage and talk to someone about how counselling services might help."

The initiative, which was held at City Church on University Avenue, received just under £2,000 of funding from the policing body.

A creche service and vouchers for tea or coffee afterwards at nearby cafe Common Grounds were also offered to those taking part.

The free sessions were organised in partnership with Belfast organisations Lighthouse and Bridge of Hope.

Stuart Kirk, a crisis counsellor for Lighthouse, said the charity provided emotional support to attendees while Bridge of Hope offered massage therapies.

"The response has been positive. We have met a lot of different people from different backgrounds," he said.

"For me it's important to have a really good balance in focus between emotional and physical health, and know there is a relationship between the two."

Resident Fa Triyana, a student in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), was among those who received a head massage.

The 27-year-old, originally from Indonesia, was positive about the experience, saying: "I really enjoyed it – I almost slept."

However, Ray Farley of the Belfast Holylands Regeneration Association said he was "bemused" by the concept.

"It's quite an unusual idea. I really don't know. I suppose somebody must mean well at the back of it," he said.

"I'm bemused. It's good to offer counselling and advice for people who have suffered from anti-social behaviour, but having said that the even better positive would be to stop the anti-social behaviour from happening to start with."

PCSPs receive funding from the Policing Board, Department of Justice, councils and other agencies.

Belfast City Council said the event was scheduled by south Belfast's PCSP with members agreeing to allocate just under £2,000 towards it.

A spokeswoman said: "Helping vulnerable people to feel safe by supporting their positive health and wellbeing is a priority across Belfast, but this is the first time this specific initiative has been run in south Belfast."

Last week The Irish News revealed the scale of binge-drinking and anti-social behaviour in the Holyland area.

More than 30,000 alcohol units were seized by council officials in the past three years – the equivalent of around 15,000 cans of beer.

And more than 1,800 complaints of anti-social behaviour were made including drunkenness and verbal abuse.

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