Today is supposed to be “Blue Monday”, which some claim to be the gloomiest day of the year. But depression doesn’t care what day it is, which is one of the reasons why CALM – the Campaign Against Living Miserably – has teamed up with Netflix and Ricky Gervais’s new series of After Life to put up 25 benches around the country to encourage people to… well, just talk.
One of the benches is to be found in The Rookery, just the other side of the borough boundary in the gardens of Streatham Common.
The Rookery bench and the two dozen others around the country mark the start of the third and final series of Gervais’s acclaimed programme about dealing with grief.
“I don’t think any harm can come from discussing taboo subjects – if we don’t, they stay taboo because people are scared to talk about them,” Gervais says.
“After Life let people talk about grief, and it was so good to start the conversation.”
After Life is described by the CALM charity as “equal parts moving, poignant and heartbreaking (as well as laugh-out-loud funny)”.
Previous series have followed Gervais’s character, Tony, as he navigates the devastating loss of his wife and rebuilds his life.
Part of that process has taken place, through simple conversations, on a bench in the graveyard.
The charity says, “Like we try to do at CALM, the show has helped people to stop feeling ashamed or embarrassed about discussing their emotions. It’s a show that makes you think about your own life, how you handle tragedy, what it all means and what’s important to you.
“It’s showed that, yes, grief does hit you like a ton of bricks, but talking openly, in a real way, about how you’re feeling does actually really help.
“And in this series it shows that hope is everything.”
The graveyard bench is where Tony talks to Anne, his graveside confidante, played by Penelope Wilton.
Calm says, “We know talking to someone you trust really can help. Opening up about to your mates or family is not an easy thing to do. But starting that conversation can be the start of getting the support you need. By helping them better understand and support you, you’re giving you – and them – the best chance of doing that.
“We know benches are a place where you can reflect, talk to someone, sit shoulder to shoulder with someone and get things off your chest. So we’ve worked with Netflix to put benches in parks across the country – inscribed with that crucial line from the show, ‘Hope is everything’, to help people have those conversations and to show it’s normal to have those feelings.”
If you’re experiencing feelings of loss and grief, you can contact the CALM helpline.
They’re there every day, from 5pm to midnight, with free, confidential and practical support on 0800 58 58 58.
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