'Friendship bench' installed by RNLI in Welsh town to encourage community to tackle loneliness

  • Video report by Alexandra Hartley

A bench in Penarth has been painted orange and blue as part of an initiative to help tackle loneliness and mental health issues.

The 'Friendship Bench', painted in RNLI colours, is encouraging people to sit, have a chat and potentially make new friends.

It comes as many more call outs are increasingly linked to suicide and self harm. 

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 Friendship Bench is located on Penarth seafront Credit: ITV

RNLI Penarth's Community Safety Team have worked with Vale of Glamorgan Council to create the bench.

Stephen Siddall, RNLI Penarth Community Safety Volunteer, said the organisation is seeing more mental health incidents.

"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", he said. "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."

Fourteen year old Darcie Wheddon thinks the bench will help young people too

Locals and visitors to the town agree the bench is a great way to get talking.

Fourteen year old Darcie Wheddon said she thinks the bench will help young people too.

"I've found this last year very difficult. I've felt very lonely, but when you talk to people, it makes you feel better and makes you feel more connected to the world. It's really good to talk."