M&S have launched a dedicated café for customers to talk about mental health

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Words: Sarah Finley

Sometimes, when life is getting on top of you, you just want an outlet for your thoughts. So we love the concept of M&S’s new Frazzled Cafés – which will open in stores to highlight mental health awareness.

Announced yesterday at the London Book Fair, and in collaboration with comedian Ruby Wax, the sessions will be a chance for people, who are feeling ‘frazzled’, to meet, talk and share their personal stories in a safe, anonymous and non-judgemental environment. 

The cafes - whose motto is, ‘It’s okay to not be okay’- will open in 11 M&S stores across the country, including London alongside Brighton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Cambridge, Nottingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Canterbury and Norwich – and even more locations are set to be added throughout the year.  

Taking place after hours and led by trained volunteer facilitators, the meetings are designed not just for the one-in-four Britons who will suffer a mental illness at some point, but for the four-in-four who are feeling frazzled and overwhelmed by the stresses of modern life. However, the stores have highlighted that the meetings are not a substitute for therapy and that their purpose is to provide a space where people can talk openly with others who understand how they’re feeling. 

Wax, who has openly spoken about her struggles with depression in the past and is a mental health campaigner, said: “We live in a time where to have a life crammed to the hilt is considered a success story. But with all this pressure, so many of us have nowhere to go to meet and talk about it. Frazzled Cafe is about people coming together to share their stories, calmly sitting together, stating their case and feeling validated as a result. Feeling heard, to me, has always been half the cure.”

The comedian and author has also written a book called A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled where she details her depression and how she overcame it by making simple changes – giving herself time to breathe, reflect and live in the moment.

With the economic cost of mental health problems in the UK estimated at roughly £105 billion per year, equal to the entire National Health budget, there’s a need for identifying ways to help people cope with overwhelming stress and reducing the stigma that is attached to discussing mental health. Studies have proven that one of the best ways to beat stress is to share your feelings and that peer-support groups can help to improve mental wellbeing.

Sacha Berendji, retail director at M&S, said: “Ruby’s Frazzled Cafe is a simple, pressure-free way of tackling what can be a taboo subject – feeling stressed. We hope that by providing free and calm venues after the café has closed, we can help any members of the community who simply need to talk about things and what’s happening in their lives.”

Images: Rex Features