“Conversation Starter” Project

Welcome to The Conversation Starter Project. I am Dr Tara Quinn-Cirillo, a local Psychologist. I am passionate about community emotional wellbeing and supporting people to manage adversity. With the ongoing Coronavirus Pandemic, this has never been a more important topic.

I host meet and talk sessions in Horsham Park where people can connect, talk an enjoy sunlight and fresh air. Walking and exercise are also evidenced based for enhancing mood and overall wellbeing. We are developing this service to include provision of regular times and targeting groups and topics for sections of the community. Our format will include “Walk and Talk” sessions, “Rest and Refuel” picnic style sessions and when permitted we can host “cafe and coffee” sessions. We will also look at online options for those who may struggle with face to face meet ups at the current time. These are not designed to be therapeutic but general conversations around wellbeing and of course any topics that people wish to discuss. There are some very interesting people in Horsham with so much to share!!!

For details of events relating to this project please see our Facebook page link below: I am pleased to announce a network of local practitioners and wellbeing specialists are giving their time to support this project and help host regular walk and talk events and much more in our community.

https://www.facebook.com/The-Conversation-Starter-Project-101485682194256/

I am urging local and wider communities to engage with this project and act as host for signs to either ‘walk and talk’ or ‘talking benches’. Also at local practitioners that are able and willing to give their time to help run walk and talk events locally. Interested parties can contact me to get involved via this page or email at drqc@icloud.com.

***This is not a therapeutic intervention. It is an wellbeing project for ADULTS OVER 18. I am a HCPC registered and extremely experienced practitioner and will facilitate this meet up. Anyone in crisis should contact their GP, call 111 or visit A&E. *****

HISTORY

Social isolation and loneliness and the impacted upon many people’s mental health throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Restrictions have been placed on how and when we socialise which has exacerbated loneliness and social isolation for many. The elderly are particularly vulnerable and also men, who have been shown to struggle more with reaching out and talking about wellbeing and mental health.

Humans are innately social beings. Connecting and talking have been evidenced to exert a positive impact on mental wellbeing. Many may feel that reaching out to a stranger to talk may be awkward or that they may be judged negatively by society. It is important we address these barriers and support people to feel able to connect in a safe and supported way to enhance their wellbeing.

I started The Conversation Starter project back in November 2020. This time of year can be difficult for many historically. Darker evenings, lowered light levels and the run up to the festive season can be difficult times for many. The pandemic and lockdown restrictions created extra psychological pressure on people and their wellbeing at this time. However due to the restrictions on meeting in public places, the project was not able to gather the pace it needed until now. Community safety was paramount.

As part of my community focus and ongoing Compassionate Horsham Campaign, I wanted to introduce ‘talking benches” and “walk and talk” locations locally to help mange loneliness and connect people in the hope of supporting mental health in our community as we continued to navigate the pandemic. I wanted the overall project to be called The Conversation Starter Project: Connecting People, Connecting Communities and Enhancing Wellbeing”. A recognisable project supported by those in our community including focal points, café’s, shops, community centres and local organisations to get involved in supporting either talking benches (when allowed with covid restrictions) or walk and talk points where people can meet and talk while walking together. Kaya café in Horsham Park was one venue that has agreed to be involved and we are hoping others will follow suit. It is ideally located for people to walk and start a conversation together around the park.

Friends of Chesworth Farm have also agreed to be involved with the Conversation Starter Project. Chesworth Farm is a wonderful local space accessible for all. For more information about this community resource see the link below:

https://friendsofchesworthfarm.com/news/

The ‘talking benches concept’ was started by Alison Owen-Jones in 2019. She introduced the concept of the “Happy to chat” bench which was then expanded around the world. Chat benches have appeared in Australia, Canada and the Ukraine.

In November 2020, Sir Tom Moore’s daughter Hannah made a video encouraging people to walk and talk during lockdown. We can never underestimate the positive impact of connecting with others on our emotional wellbeing.