Hafal 180A new service created for and run by people with a mental illness and their carers in Wales has received £225,000 funding from the Big Lottery People and Places programme.

Connect for Recovery is due to launch later this year and will aim to create a virtual community of people with a mental illness and their carers via an online forum and hub, and provide links to existing local networks of users and carers. The project is supported by Welsh mental health charity Hafal and the National Centre for Mental Health.

Find out more: Loneliness and mental health is a key topic for MHT Wales (20 May) - book your place here

Alun Thomas, Hafal's chief executive, said: "We are delighted to receive funding from the Big Lottery to fund this ground-breaking project, which will harness technology to reduce the loneliness and isolation experienced by people with a mental illness and their carers in Wales.

"Connect for Recovery will provide new opportunities to link up and connect with others in the same situation - both virtually and in person."

The Connect for Recovery virtual community will be accessible via the internet and a smart phone app, and will be made available at a number of community venues across Wales.

The online community will include a safe, regulated supported forum where users can create a profile, connect with others, comment on a number of threads and make friends.

Rona Aldrich, Wales Committee member for the Big Lottery Fund, added: “Programmes like People and Places are making a difference to the lives of so many people in communities across Wales.

“It delivers on our promise to use National Lottery funding to regenerate and revitalise communities, tackle disadvantage head on and leave a lasting legacy.”

Hafal recently conducted a survey of 480 people who access its services in which respondents (75% service users, 25% carers) completed a questionnaire on loneliness.

A majority (72%) said that loneliness made the symptoms of serious mental illness a great deal worse; 42% of respondents had been lonely in the past month and this increased to 50% when only service users were considered.