We’re proud of CALM. A local charity, doing incredible work for people right across the country. It’s an amazing achievement. As you might know already (read SevenStreets’ Tom Harcastle’s piece on his own struggle with depression here), CALM have just released their first book – a fascinating document of the first ten years of a charity who’ve successfully engaged with their target demographic – essentially, men – and got them to open up. To slowly break the taboo; that it’s completely normal to feel depressed and to want to talk about it. Author Fiona Shaw, who wrote the CALM book, talks us through how the book came to fruition…

“CALM iconography, from its logo to hard-hitting ad campaigns, has become the artwork of a generation in Liverpool. Seeping into the collective consciousness, I’d have sworn blind that I’d seen CALM around town long before its launch here in 2000. It seems like it’s been with us forever. But 2000 it was, so in 2011 I sat down with CALM’s co-ordinator on Merseyside, Simon Howes, to start putting a book together, summarising and celebrating its successes over the past ten years.

And so CALM: ten years young came about. The two of us, sitting in LEAF, amidst a mountain of flyers, photos, beer mats and badges that only began to tell the tale of those ten years. The list of people to talk to grew, spidering from every photo and newspaper cutting. I started calling people, out of the blue, telling them what we were doing. People queued up to help: to talk about why they’re CALM supporters, how they got involved, and some of the things they’ve done to raise money. And they were there time and again – talking in the book, supporting us at the launch, donating prezzies for the goodie bags and promoting the book in their various spheres of influence.

The thing that struck me, after the tidal wave of goodwill, was the pure common sense of it all: getting young lads to distribute flyers – leaving them in chippies and hostels, pubs and toilets. Exactly the sort of places people might find them when they needed them. Printing messages on beer mats and pizza boxes; places you might see them when you need someone to talk to. Not the waiting room at the doctor’s. And talking to all men in a language they understand – on the basis that we all need a bit of help at some point. And when we do, there they’ll be.

The thing that struck me, after the tidal wave of goodwill, was the pure common sense of it all: getting young lads to distribute flyers – leaving them in chippies and hostels, pubs and toilets. Exactly the sort of places people might find them when they needed them.

The thing was, every time I told someone what we were doing, not only did people know what CALM is, nearly everyone I spoke to, whether friends of mine, work colleagues, or book contacts – just about all of them knew someone who’d taken their own life, and they wanted to talk about it. It’s something that affects us far more than we perhaps think, until it’s bluntly brought home to roost. As the book says – 102 young British men were killed during the first three years of the Iraq war; 3,054 young men took their own lives in Britain.

And so the story began to come together, weaving its way through music, clubs, footie, fashion and festivals. But the nature of CALM’s anonymous helpline means they can’t tell you who they’ve spoken to every year – the age ranges and geographical ground they cover; the pop-up lists of most- prevalent problems – the soundbites on which media and awareness rely. Because no one would call a ‘what’s your name and where d’you come from?’ helpline, geared more to funding tick boxes than people in the most need. So the stats CALM give you – the cost to society of just one suicide is estimated at £1.6 million by the World Health Organisation, more people around the world die from suicide than homicide and war combined; for every ecstasy death there are 65 suicides – have to grab attention in other ways.

In their place, we were indebted to the men who were prepared to speak out – to talk about their own problems, issues and emotions. Because, still, that doesn’t happen often enough. They’re there, many of them successful, high profile men. Men perhaps you’d never think have the same problems as you and me; men you admire. Men you want to be.

Writing Ten Years Young was an inspiring experience. And I was humbled by the goodwill and the warmth with which everyone threw themselves into it, doing whatever they were best placed to do to help things along. Or throwing themselves out of plane, or running far too far on a Sunday morning.

CALM goes on, doing what it does. Being there, in the background – part of the fabric of our lives. They don’t shout about how they do things, they just concentrate on being there. They don’t tell you either quite how brilliant some of their achievements are, and it’s very rare they speak directly about their successes. You’ll find a few of them in the book. And I hope they impress you as much as they did me…”

CALM – The Campaign Against Living Miserably
Freephone 0800 585858

Win! Goody bags

CALM have kindly given us a couple of bulging goody bags to celebrate the book’s release, featuring all sorts of good stuff. To be in with a chance of winning, email info@sevenstreets.com with the subject ‘CALM Comp’ – we’ll pick winners on 1st April. What do you get? All this

A copy of the CALM book Friday Night Laughterhouse Comedy Voucher – Free entry for 2 people Free Coffee Voucher for Bean Coffee A copy of “Powder” DVD – adapted from the novel by Kevin Sampson CALMzine Magazines CALM t-shirt “Sound! – Liverpool Pop Quiz Book” from Capsica Publishing Bido Lito Magazine “Takeaways – 100 classics to cook at home” – Can Cook Studios’ immense cookbook CALM badge & plectrum

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.