The wintery warmth and comfort of a northern hemisphere Christmas came to UnitingSA this month when its popular Chat ‘n Chew program celebrated a ‘Christmas in July’.

Chat ‘n Chew brings together people experiencing mental health challenges for an afternoon of social conversation and food every fortnight at UnitingSA’s Child, Youth and Family Services facility in Port Adelaide.

On 12 July, 24 participants sat down to a traditional warm Christmas-themed meal cooked by an employee of Wesley Social Enterprises, a UnitingSA service offering supported employment to people with a disability.

Chat 'n Chew participants enjoy Christmas in July at UnitingSA's Family Centre

Chat ‘n Chew participants enjoyed Christmas early this month at UnitingSA’s Family Centre

UnitingSA Mental Health Services Manager Anna Sutherland said it was a fantastic event that provided a fun and heartwarming experience for participants.

She said programs like Chat ‘n Chew were essential elements in helping clients to overcome social isolation and exacerbation of mental health conditions.

“Social isolation and loneliness is so often the case for people experiencing mental health challenges,” Ms Sutherland said.

“Chat ‘n Chew is often the only meal and the only time our clients might leave their house in a fortnight.

“It provides a vital opportunity for them to manage their social anxiety and spend time together, supporting and encouraging each other, all done with the guidance and support of our skilled mental health team.”

Ms Sutherland said the collaboration with Wesley Social Enterprises was a unique feature of Chat ‘n Chew.

“The food element of this program provides a valuable supported employment opportunity in catering and hospitality,” Ms Sutherland said.

“The WSE employee is gaining valuable skills in menu planning, shopping and cooking on a budget, often never having such activities before.

“We are so proud of this program and the connection and confidence it brings in so many ways.”

Participation in Chat ‘n Chew is by referral to UnitingSA’s Mental Health Services.

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