Council

Mental health wellbeing benches to be installed in Belfast parks

 The benches promote engagement with other people, and will have information contained on the Public Health Agency’s Minding Your Head website, accessible via a QR code visible on each bench
Michael Kenwood

Public benches designed as part of a mental health campaign are to start popping up across Belfast parks.

Belfast councillors have approved 16 ‘Take Five Steps to Wellbeing’ benches across council parks, with up to four each in the north, south, east and west due to appear in coming months.

The benches promote engagement with other people, and will have information contained on the Public Health Agency’s Minding Your Head website, accessible via a QR code visible on each bench.

Take Five Steps to Wellbeing is a set of public health messages aimed at improving the wellbeing of the whole population, from a strategy developed by the New Economics Foundation.

The Five steps are: “Connect, Be active, Take notice, Keep learning and Give.”

A council report states: “These simple and effective messages are based on solid evidence and draw on a wealth of psychological and economic literature from interdisciplinary work. Evidence indicates individuals who practise all five steps have the highest level of well being regardless of circumstances.”

In December 2019 Falls Park saw a precursor to the Take Five campaign when a wellbeing bench was placed there in partnership with St Paul’s ABC and Suicide Awareness Support Group.

Since then other councils have installed “Chatty Benches” in some of their parks also focussing on the Take Five messaging, in Ards and North Down, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon and Mid and East Antrim Councils.

Belfast councillors received an update on the plan at the recent People and Communities Committee meeting. Officers said no exact locations had been agreed upon, but added if the first sixteen were deemed successful more would be coming in the 2023/24 year.

Sinn Féin Councillor Steven Corr said: “They will be an excellent addition to our parks. I know there have been a couple of people who made motions on park space, and this is one of those that is very practical. Not expensive, and it actually works.”

DUP Councillor Nicola Verner said: “I love the idea of benches. Anything that reaches out to help mental health and isolation is very welcome.”

 

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