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How board games are being used to tackle loneliness and mental health problems

Board games are being used at Ipswich County Library to help tackle loneliness and mental health problems. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

Board games are being used at Ipswich County Library to help tackle loneliness and mental health problems. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

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With the growth of smartphones, games consoles, tablets and computers, it might seem that everything these days is electronic.

But one library is proving that the old-fashioned ways of having fun are sometimes the best - and can help to tackle loneliness and mental health problems at the same time.

Ipswich County Library is one of the few in the country to stock a collection of about 70 board games to peruse and play with, given to the library by Norwich-based seller Zatu Games.

As well as the old family favourites of chess, Boggle and backgammon, there are also newer games such as Codenames, Ticket to Ride and Happy Salmon.

The library in Northgate Street is holding a regular Sunday morning summer board gaming sessions to give everyone aged four and older a chance to play.

Board games are being used at Ipswich County Library to help tackle loneliness and mental health problems. Picture: RACHEL EDGEBoard games are being used at Ipswich County Library to help tackle loneliness and mental health problems. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

But the real hope for many of those involved in the project is that getting everyone round the games table to roll the dice will boost social interaction - and reduce loneliness and mental health issues as a result.

Olivia Chan, from Zatu Games, said: “Getting children involved and playing board games, we hope, will help to tackle mental health issues early.

“Playing games is a very social, engaging activity which promotes mindfulness and awareness. Nowadays it is very much all about the tablet or the screen but we’re really trying to push board games and getting them back onto the table – not just at Christmas time.

“Social anxiety is one of the main issues that were trying to combat through getting involved with schools, libraries and younger people.

Board games are being used at Ipswich County Library to help tackle loneliness and mental health problems. Picture: RACHEL EDGEBoard games are being used at Ipswich County Library to help tackle loneliness and mental health problems. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

“Board games help with children’s cognitive and social development – taking turns, sharing, working together. Reduce isolation. Reduce stress and to support mental balance.”

Library and information adviser Andrew Miller, himself an avid board games player whose personal favourite is the strategy game Scythe, said: “What we’re trying to do is encourage people to socialise with people they’ve never met before by playing board games.

“From my experience when you tell people that you play board games, they say: ‘Isn’t that what kids do?’

“However a lot of games are for all the family and you don’t have to be connected to the internet or technology.

Board games are being used at Ipswich County Library to help tackle loneliness and mental health problems. Picture: RACHEL EDGEBoard games are being used at Ipswich County Library to help tackle loneliness and mental health problems. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

“We use board games for lots of different things. They stimulate the brain cells and they are very good educationally for teaching strategies.

“When you’re sitting round a table playing a board game, there are no barriers. People help each other and you can have a chat at the same time without concentrating on that small screen.

“A lot of people who play board games tend to be quite happy. You’ve got that sense of trying to complete something together, you get immersed in them and you forget your problems because you’re concentrated on something that’s a bit of fun.”

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