Q&A with CALM charity

Blank Shores (bit.ly/blankshores) opens with our lead character Emily searching for Connor, her missing partner.  He has suffered from anxiety and depression his entire adult life, leading to feelings of isolation and low self-esteem.  The loss of their newborn daughter, Sophia, pushed Connor over the edge, resulting in a gradual breakdown in communication with Emily.  He subsequently explores an uncertain, and potentially dangerous, means to alleviate his suffering.

Coping with poor mental health is a central theme of Blank Shores, and we want the film to not only entertain and have artistic merit, but also raise awareness and generate understanding and empathy.  We believe the film has the capability to move people and provoke meaningful conversations.

The World Health Organisation estimates that each year approximately one million people die from suicide, which represents a global mortality rate of one death every 40 seconds.  In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide. (Statistics obtained from the World Health Organisation).

Today we welcome UK charity CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably).  CALM was founded in 2006 and is leading a movement against suicide which is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK.  The charity provides a free and confidential helpline and webchat service, support for those bereaved by suicide, supportive spaces in communities and awareness using cultural mediums including art, music, sport and comedy.  CALM’s current Patron is Professor Green and their ambassadors include Romesh Ranganathan, Loyle Carner and Marvin Sordell.

We asked CALM some questions about mental health:

Why do you think suicide still carries a stigma in society?

In recent years we’ve seen a huge shift in terms of how these issues are being discussed in the media and across society, and we know that more people than ever before are accessing CALM’s services, so it’s clear that things are moving in the right direction.  However, suicide remains the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK, and there is much work yet to be done. This is an issue that affects everyone, and we all have a role to play in pushing for positive change – be that in our schools, in the workplace, online or at home.

Does toxic masculinity have a role to play in depression and anxiety, and ultimately male suicide?

There are many complex reasons as to why suicide remains the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.  One contributing factor can be that society often conflates strength with stoicism, and there are outdated and damaging stereotypes of masculinity that can prevent men from seeking help when they need it.  At CALM we aim to challenge these stereotypes and celebrate multiple interpretations of masculinity, so that people feel able to reach out when they’re struggling, be that to friends or family, a colleague, or to an organisation like CALM.

What steps can someone take if they think a friend, loved one or family member may be suffering in silence like our character Connor?

We all go through hard times in life – checking in on someone, even if it’s just a text, can make a huge difference.  So, if you’re concerned about a friend or someone in your life, ask them how they’re doing. Just showing your support and giving someone space to communicate their feelings can be a huge release.

Explore how they’re feeling with open questions and, above all, listen.  If you’re worried about someone’s well-being, make a plan and don’t be afraid to involve family, friends, or colleagues so that the person has a support network around them.

You can also tell them about support services like the CALM helpline, Samaritans, the GP.  It’s really important they realise they don’t have to suffer alone and there are places they can go for help.

What is it about artistic mediums such as film and music events that makes them effective tools in raising awareness and nurturing a caring community?

At CALM we often communicate with our audience through cultural touchpoints including music, comedy, sport and film.  This allows our message to be accessible, relatable and easy to engage in. These areas provide platforms for expression, to story tell and share a range of experiences, as well as reaching people on terms that feel natural.  They can also be effective mediums for raising awareness of the support that is available for anyone who is going through a difficult time in their life.

Are there any upcoming events that CALM will be involved in to raise awareness and break the silence?

We’re always hosting sporting events, gigs, get-togethers and panels so that we can reach and engage more people in the issues of mental health and suicide.  To find out more about these events, head to thecalmzone.net.

The CALM helpline is open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year on 0800 58 58 58.  Alternatively, you can also use their webchat service.

Follow CALM on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.