MENTAL health experts are calling upon people across the county to become ‘winter friends’ in a bid to help combat loneliness.

2gether NHS Foundation Trust – which provides social and mental healthcare services in Herefordshire – has joined the campaign which is encouraging 100,000 people to pledge to look in on elderly friends and relatives this winter.

Figures from the Mental Health Foundation indicate that four in 10 people in the UK have felt depressed due to loneliness and this can become even more of an issue in colder weather.

As well as depression, persistent loneliness can cause stress and poorer functioning of the immune and cardiovascular systems.

There is also evidence that loneliness makes it harder to control habits and behaviour, leading to health problems.

The Winter Friends initiative asks people to sign an electronic pledge and those who do will receive free cold weather alerts and email tips throughout the winter to help them do their bit.

Anyone wishing to sign the pledge can visit

Anyone suffering from mental ill health should speak to their GP or contact Let’s Talk on 0800 073 2200 if suffering with stress, anxiety or depression.

The Samaritans are available on 08457 90 90 90.