Later this week, as part of the ‘Imagine: Festival of Ideas & Politics’ in Belfast, a community hackathon will be assembling emerging leaders and influencers to combat the issue of loneliness in Northern Ireland.
Loneliness, which is strongly associated with poor mental health, has become more and more prevalent in our society. A 2014 health check report by Aviva has shown that a whole third of the UK often feels lonely.
Although, it may be assumed that the issue is more common amongst the elderly, the numbers from the report tell a different story. Nearly 50% of the 18-24 year olds included in the data sampled have said that they often felt lonely, compared to only a quarter of those that are over 65. Understandably, these young people are going through some major life changes with their own problems, which can result in being overwhelmed, becoming isolated and being lonely.
Michelle Byrne from AWARE – The national depression charity for Northern Ireland said: “Often people with depression will feel isolated and in some cases even isolate themselves from friends and family. This can result in their illness worsening and becoming harder to treat. Interaction and engagement with others is important, which is why AWARE encourage people to attend one of our Support Groups, join a local club or exercise in the fresh air and help improve mood.
“Events like the community hackathon are a fantastic way to engage people to discuss important issues such as loneliness, depression and mental illness in our community. Any of these can affect anyone at any stage in their life so proactively working to eliminate the effect it will have on the community is a positive thing.”
The Community Hackathon will provide attendees an opportunity to actively engage with an issue that is impacting our communities, by working with a diverse range of individuals from different backgrounds and professions to support new ideas and initiatives and maybe even win some prizes. Ideas may range from apps to community outreach groups, from drop in centres to a pen pal service. Anything that will help combat loneliness in Northern Ireland.
The hackathon will take place at Brewbot, Ormeau Road, this Saturday 25th March from 12.00pm to 5.00pm. There are a limited number of places left at this free event. So if you are passionate about your local community or fancy yourself as an innovator and would like to help combat loneliness in Northern Ireland, register your place at www.imaginebelfast.com/events/community-hackathon.
This event is organised by Alumni of the Washington Ireland Program (WIP). For more than two decades, WIP has engaged emerging student leaders across the island of Ireland in a leadership program committed to overcoming divisions of the past and empowering future leaders with skills and insights to build a shared future for all.
For more information, visit www.wiprogram.org