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'Happy to Chat' benches to help promote mental wellness in Salisbury

Wiltshire Council's Salisbury Area Board and Salisbury City Council are working in partnership on a new project to tackle loneliness and improve the wellbeing of residents.

Published 5 August 2021
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Wiltshire Council's Salisbury Area Board and Salisbury City Council are working in partnership on a new project to tackle loneliness and improve the wellbeing of residents.

Together they have installed six 'Happy to Chat' benches in Salisbury city centre and parks.

With improving mental health and reducing loneliness as key local priorities in Salisbury and beyond, the benches are a way to encourage conversations in the community with people from all generations invited to stop for a chat and share a smile with each other.

The Mayor of Salisbury, Caroline Corbin said: "Over the last 18 months, so many of our city residents have either been shielding or been wary of coming out of their homes. The 'Happy to Chat' benches give people a chance and a reason to talk, which is proven to help ease stress and reduce anxiety.

"The benches provide everyone with an opportunity to take a little time out, meet someone new and gain insight into other peoples' experiences. Everyone has a story to tell and taking just 10 minutes to share with someone, might just be the highlight of their day."

Salisbury Area Board Chair, Cllr Brian Dalton said: "The 'Happy to Chat' bench concept is very simple, but we need the community's help to make it work. Each bench has a welcoming sign on it that reads: 'A Happy to Chat Bench: Sit Here If You Don't Mind Someone Stopping To Say Hello'.  I hope the signs help break down the invisible social barriers that sometimes exist between people who are sharing the common space of a bench. Making the effort to stop and say 'hello' could make a huge positive difference to both your and their day."

Cllr Simon Jacobs, Wiltshire Council Cabinet Member for Communities and Area Boards, said: "This is the perfect example of what the area boards can do - identifying a need, working positively with partners, and then providing an innovative solution. COVID has had a big impact on the wellbeing of people so hopefully these benches can help provide that interaction that people have missed. And with the benches being outdoors it means it's much more safe for people to talk to each other with the fresh air and the ability for people to socially distance comfortably."

A downloadable poster for businesses, community groups and individuals is available on Happy to Chat' benches in Salisbury | Experience Salisbury along with a map, showing the location of the six benches.

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Published 5 August 2021