Feeling Frazzled? M & S Is Launching New Mental Health Cafes

Whether you have been diagnosed with a mental illness or are just struggling to keep up with the stresses and strains of modern life, we could all use some time to relax and talk openly. But it’s not that simple – opening up about how you’re feeling can be daunting, and you may not know where to start looking for a place to talk. It’s also easy to push mental health aside, pretending it’s not as important as physical health, but this simply isn’t true.

Thankfully, there is a shift happening in the ways that mental illness is approached, both in day-to-day life and in the media. The stigma surrounding conditions such as depression and anxiety is being shattered, thanks to campaigns such as #TimeToTalk and #IAmWhole. After all, one-in-four people will struggle with a mental illness at some point in their life.

Marks and Spencer is the latest company doing their bit to facilitate discussions about mental health. The retailer has launched a fortnightly cafe event where visitors can pour their hearts out and get support in a welcoming and non-judgemental environment.

Frazzled Cafe is not designed to replace professional therapy or medication – the idea is to provide a safe space for anyone who feels stressed or down to meet and talk openly. Held after-hours once every other week, the not-for-profit sessions are facilitated by teams of volunteers who keep the chat flowing smoothly.

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Photo: Alexandra Wyman

There are currently 11 pilot locations for the cafes; Brighton, London, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Cambridge, Nottingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Canterbury, and Norwich. The retailer will be adding more locations as the year goes on, and Frazzled Cafe will soon become a registered charity.

The initiative is run in partnership with author and comedian Ruby Wax, who is famed for her mental health activism. She 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.”

If you’d like to learn more about Frazzled Cafe, including when meetings are coming up near you, you can sign up to the mailing list here.

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