Social spirit to fight the blues

Coffee morning social group at All Saints Church.  Volunteers Joan Arnott, Christine Wilks and Kath Marsh.
Coffee morning social group at All Saints Church. Volunteers Joan Arnott, Christine Wilks and Kath Marsh.
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A new health scheme has rolled out in Anchorsholme to help combat depression caused by loneliness.

The Healthy Anchorsholme project, paid for by the National Lottery, means doctors can hand out ‘social prescriptions’ to isolated patients.

A number of local social clubs – for bingo, gardening, board games, reading, ambling and more – have signed up to the scheme, which began earlier this month.

Anchorsholme councillor Paul Galley, who helped organise the project, said: “If somebody has low level depression or suffers the perils of loneliness, doctors can offer links to community groups.

“That way they can build up their confidence, develop friendships and start to reintegrate back into society.

“We can all find ourselves in lonely places at times. We know Blackpool has a massive problem with depression, and this is really a straight-forward way to deal with that problem.”

According to figures by Public Health England, more than one in seven registered patients in Blackpool have been diagnosed with depression. Between April 2017 and March 2018, the proportion of patients in the town with depression was 15.4 per cent, up from 10.7 per cent in 2013/14.

Shirley Wardle, community officer at All Saints Church on Valeway Avenue, which is home to a number of social clubs, said: “There are a lot of people who are quite isolated, and it’s hard for them to get reach out.

“Taking that first step is hard. By having a regular programme of activities that people feel comfortable attending, to meet with one another, they build these friendships. We found that a lot of people who have joined us in the last 12 months have gone on to join other groups.”

Liz Petch, consultant for public health at Blackpool Council, said: “We know that GPs spend a significant amount of time dealing with patients’ social problems.

“Social prescribing is designed to support people with a wide range of social, emotional or practical needs, improving mental health and physical well-being.

“The benefits of social prescribing are far-reaching and can make all the difference to those people with long-term health problems, vulnerable groups and those feeling socially isolated. It also helps to reduce the pressure on GP services so those people who require immediate medical attention can be prioritised.”