Marks & Spencer has joined forces with number one bestselling author, comedian and leading mental health awareness campaigner Ruby Wax to launch Frazzled Cafe in M&S stores.
Announced today at London Book Fair, M&S Cafés will host fortnightly ‘talk-in’ sessions where people who are feeling ‘frazzled’ can meet to talk and share their personal stories in a safe, anonymous and non-judgmental environment.
11 M&S stores will be hosting Frazzled Cafe meetings over the next few months – with three in London alongside Brighton, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Cambridge, Nottingham, Leeds, Newcastle, Canterbury and Norwich – and more locations are set to be added throughout the year.
Taking place in M&S Cafés after hours and led by trained volunteer facilitators, Frazzled Cafe 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.
Frazzled Cafe was successfully trialled in M&S offices and stores last year with the support of M&S as part of its Plan A eco and ethical initiative. The meetings are not therapy, their purpose is to provide a space where people can talk openly with others who understand how they are feeling – ‘a place where it’s ok, to not be ok’.
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 – and the UK rated the 7th highest nation in the Western world for prescribing antidepressants (four million annually)2 , 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. Studies3 have proven that one of the best ways to beat stress is to share your feelings and research4 has also shown that peer-support groups can yield significant improvement in psychiatric symptoms, resulting in decreased hospitalisation, larger social support networks and enhanced self-esteem. Ruby Wax herself has come across thousands of people who wanted to talk and feel connected during her sell-out book tours and theatre shows for A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled and Sane New World over the past five years. This is what inspired her to create Frazzled Cafe.
Ruby Wax, who announced the launch at the London Book Fair, 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.”
“It’s special to get a company like M&S on-board. I’m grateful for the set-up support they’ve given us and access to their café network is a huge boost.”
Sacha Berendji, Retail Director at Marks & Spencer, 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.”
A representative of Marks and Spencer also told us:
“The reason we are involved is that we take a responsible approach to business, our people, our customers and the communities we serve. And in this instance, when our Plan A (our eco and ethical programme) team met with Ruby and her team we saw an opportunity to help. M&S stores sit at the heart of communities and are well positioned to support. Therefore, we hope that by providing free and calm venues after our cafés have closed can help any members of the community who simply need to talk about things and what’s happening in their lives.”
Frazzled Cafe is a not for profit and soon to be registered charity created by Ruby Wax and run by Elizabeth Morrison and Anna D’Onofrio. Its name is inspired by Ruby’s number one bestselling book A Mindfulness Guide for the Frazzled which is now available in paperback.