The last twelve months have been hard on everyone, especially if you’ve been living alone. We’ve all become much more aware of how important contact with others is to our mental health and emotional wellbeing. A simple phone call, a chat on the doorstep, or even a smile and a hello as you pass on the street can make a real difference to someone’s day.  If you live by yourself, it helps to keep in regular contact with others. Ex-serviceman, Martin, found support through the Blackpool Coastal Housing befriending service.

“I was locked up here twenty-four-seven on my own with no one to talk to, looking at the same four walls. Being in a wheelchair and not being able to get out, you can imagine what that’s like.

I’d always been active in my life, but I was blown up in the first Gulf War. I was in hospital from 1991 to 1993. When I came out, I was in a bad place. I wasn’t getting the care I needed and I was depressed. A Doctor came to see me, and she said, ‘you’re too proud, so I’m going to take this out of your hands and get you some help.’ All sorts of agencies became involved, including the Befriending Service. My regiment never asked for help, you see, and that’s how I am, even now at 59. But once help started coming, it was a bit overwhelming. I wasn’t used to it.

Debbie at the Befriending Service helped me get things like a Christmas dinner delivered, and a tablet for Zoom, quizzes, and to see other people. In Blackpool, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Debbie Kerr from Blackpool Coastal Housing helps people connect to the Befriending Service run by The Volunteers Centre for Blackpool, Wyre & Fylde.

“It’s spread right across Blackpool and it’s for anybody, young or old, right across the board,” said Debbie. “From the first call, you’ll be asked about your home life, mobility, and how you are feeling. It’s just a friendly conversation so we can find out a little more about you and your interests and we go from there. At the moment it’s a regular chat on your landline, but as restrictions allow, we’ll do garden gate visits too. We also have a text message service which sends a personal message once a week to around one hundred people if your number is registered.

Some people prefer to check-in with me in their own time. A quick call to say thanks for the food parcel, or just ‘I’m ok’. Sometimes I find myself reminding people about nursing visits, or whether they’ve eaten their corned beef hash! How I remember all this stuff, I don’t know!”

It’s good to talk. If you’d like to use the Befriending Service, or you’d like to become a befriender, you can get in touch with Louise Cross between 9am -5pm, Monday to Friday, by calling 07483 041 029, or emailing BFriend@blackpoolvolunteers.org.uk

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