The ‘Buddy Bench’: Making playtime less lonely
December 10, 2018
By: Jenna Rachid
A new scheme has been launched in Ireland designed to tackle loneliness in schools.
The ‘Buddy Bench’ aims to encourage those feeling isolated during playtime to take a seat and signal to others they need a buddy, the BBC reports.
Schools in Ireland have welcomed the idea, which aims to build on the existing use of buddy or friendship benches around the world by actively encouraging children to think more empathetically.
Psychotherapist and co-founder of the social enterprise ‘Buddy Bench Ireland’, Judith Ashton, told the BBC: ‘We use the bench as a reminder for children of things like communication, mutual support and opening up about feelings.’
Schools in Ireland hope to reduce isolation and bullying among their pupils with the bench.
Early indications show that the scheme is having the desired effect. Sinead McGilloway, Director of the Centre for Mental Health and Community Research at Maynooth University, led a study of 117 pupils at three schools who implemented the benches. 40% said that they had used the bench, and 90% said that they would talk to a pupil if they saw them sitting on the bench.
In an opinion piece, Marie Carter, the editor and publisher of Pets Magazine, looks at how interactions with animals can positively affect those suffering with their mental health.
Writing in the Independent, Carter points to a number of studies which have demonstrated the benefits pets can have on people suffering with a range of problems – from PTSD and depression to isolation and addiction.
She writes: ‘An otherwise isolated person can become more a part of their community by the simple act of walking their dog or chatting about their pet to another person. The responsibility of looking after a pet can also give a sense of achievement and add important routine to a day.’
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Universities should do more to contact families if a student’s mental health is at risk – The Health Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, is calling on higher education representatives to develop and implement clear guidance to universities, ‘ensuring that universities get better at reaching out to family members if a student is struggling with mental health.’