Marks & Spencer is launching a string of cafés designed to provide a space for people to escape the bustle of daily life, share stories about their mental health and be reminded that it’s “ok not to be ok”.
The retailer is teaming up with author, comedian and mental health awareness campaigner Ruby Wax to launch a ‘Frazzled Cafe’ in eleven existing stores across the UK in the next few months.
Three will be based in London with others opening in Brighton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Cambridge, Nottingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Canterbury and Norwich. More are expected to be opened throughout the year.
Fortnightly ‘talk-in’ sessions will provide people who are feeling ‘frazzled’ with the opportunity to exchange personal stories “in a safe, anonymous and non-judgmental environment,” M&S said.
The independent Mental Health Taskforce to the NHS estimated last year that the economic cost of mental health problems in the UK is hitting roughly £105 billion each year, eclipsing the entire National Health budget.
According to the Health and Social Care Information Centre, the UK is rated the seventh biggest prescriber of antidepressants in the Western world.
Earlier this month, a survey by the Institute of Directors revealed that more than half of business leaders have been approached by staff with mental health issues but just 14 per cent of companies have a formal policy in place to deal with the problem.
In a press release announcing the launch of the cafés, M&S said that “there is a pressing need for both identifying ways to help people cope with overwhelming stress and reducing the stigma that is attached to discussing mental health”.
“We live in a time where to have a life crammed to the hilt is considered a success story,” said Ms Wax.
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“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,” she said. “Feeling heard, to me, has always been half the cure.”
M&S said that Frazzled Cafe, the name of which was inspired by Ms Wax’s book, A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled, is a not-for-profit organisation that is soon to be a registered charity.