A STRIKING orange and blue bench on Penarth Esplanade, put in place by RNLI Penarth and Vale of Glamorgan Council, is aiming to tackle loneliness and give people the chance to talk about mental health. 

The ‘Friendship Bench’, painted in RNLI colours, will be accompanied by a sign encouraging people to sit, have a chat and potentially make new friends. The bench gives an opportunity for people to strike up conversations with strangers, whether they are feeling lonely, need somebody to talk to, or simply want a friendly chat. 

The initiative comes in response to an increase in mental health related incidents to which Penarth’s volunteer lifeboat crew is being tasked. RNLI Penarth’s Community Safety Team represent the lifeboat station at a number of regional mental health forums, and have worked with Vale of Glamorgan Council to create the Friendship Bench. 

Stephen Siddall, RNLI Penarth Community Safety Volunteer, said:  ‘Whilst we aren’t a mental health charity, suicide and self-harm related incidents are something we are increasingly dealing with both locally and nationally. We hope the bench will help people create links and friendships in the community. 

‘Lots of people are keen to connect with others, but might be nervous about striking up a conversation with strangers. The bench takes some of that away, by giving people a way to signal that they want a friendly conversation, or to show that they need some help and support. 

‘The Vale of Glamorgan Council have been excellent in supporting the Friendship Bench initiative through granting permission and then carrying out the bench refurbishment free of charge.’