Hafal 180A new online community has been launched to provide support for people in Wales who are living with a mental illness. The community aims to provide individuals and their carers with a safe and secure place to support each other, share experiences and build new relationships – in English or Welsh.

The community, called ‘Clic’ has been developed by people with direct experience of a mental illness in partnership with Hafal and the National Centre for Mental Health, and is funded by Big Lottery Wales. The site, launched at an event at Castle Gardens in Swansea on September 14, also signposts people to useful information, contacts, resources and local services.

Clic is accessible on laptops, tablets and phones and 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.

Dave Vice, Clic coordinator, said: "We have already had great feedback about the service from those who have piloted it. We can't wait to share it with the wider world.

"Clic provides the space for people to create a profile, talk about their experiences and make friends. It's a safe place to connect with others in the same situation, wherever in Wales they may be."

One of the key aims of Clic is to tackle the loneliness and isolation experienced by many people with a mental illness and their carers. In a recent Hafal survey of 480 people who access its services – comprising 75% service users and 25% carers – 72% said that loneliness made the symptoms of serious mental illness a great deal worse. In addition, 42% of respondents had been lonely in the past month and this increased to 50% when only service users were considered.

The National Centre for Mental Health will evaluate the service and inform its development over the coming years. The project has received £224,000 funding from the Big Lottery People and Places programme, which funds projects that enable people to work together for strong communities, social justice and better rural and urban environments in Wales. 

Dr Catrin Lewis, a researcher at the National Centre for Mental Health who is working alongside Hafal to evaluate the programme, said “The opportunity for individuals with mental illnesses and their carers to join Clic and connect with others will doubtless be of huge benefit to many people across Wales. We look forward to working with Hafal over the coming years to evaluate the experiences of those who join the community and to help shape and improve the user experience over time.”  

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

“Clic will provide new opportunities to link up and connect virtually with others in the same situation. With our partners at the National Centre for Mental Health we will create a safe, accessible and supportive Wales-wide community of people with a mental illness and their carers which will provide users with support, friendship and a sense of connectedness.”