Durham Uni law student tackles lockdown loneliness with charity chatline

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‘Chit-chat’ by Lewis Alexander Baxter aims to ‘connect the nation through conversation’

A Durham University law student has launched a chatline to help combat loneliness amid the coronavirus lockdown.

Lewis Alexander Baxter, 21, founded ‘chit-chat’, a non-profit “feel-good project” providing a safe space for people to communicate on any topic, towards the end of March, the peak of the government’s national lockdown.

“Since lockdown was announced in mid-March, chit-chat has been on a mission to connect the nation through conversation,” Baxter, a second year law student and social entrepreneur, told this website. “The impacts of the pandemic have been far-reaching and have changed how we all lead our day-to-day lives.” He continued:

“At chit-chat, there’s a conversation for everyone. We are the go-to place for a chat and are proactive in tackling loneliness, isolation and promoting positive mental health during these difficult times and beyond.”

Research by the Mental Health Foundation has shown that loneliness has doubled due to the lockdown, particularly among young people: Forty-four percent of those aged 18-24 said they have experienced loneliness.

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In the first few weeks of its launch, chit-chat, which operates through a phone line and also has a social media presence, has answered over 250 calls and connected with more than 88,000 people on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

It has about 30 trained volunteers from across the UK, and unlike other platforms, ‘chit-chatters’ don’t take into account diallers’ gender, age, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, background or interests. Anyone over the age of 18 is encouraged to pick up the phone and have a chit-chat about the weather, for example, or their favourite movies or music, sport and culture. If someone has a more complex need or worry, volunteers signpost them to relevant charities and agencies for specific help.

Baxter, who is the founder and CEO of The Blurred Line Group, the UK’s first funding hub for local mental health charities, has already secured partnerships with The National Lottery and Mental Health First Aid England. He told Legal Cheek his plans for the future.

“Chit-chat hopes to be here for the long-term and not just through the pandemic,” he said, adding: “Our next steps are to expand our services, connecting and chatting with more people. We want to continue to promote positivity and form partnerships with businesses, universities, councils and local projects and bring people together as best as we can!”

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