Marks & Spencer will turn some of its store cafes into after-hours mental health drop-ins as part of an initiative aimed at calming stressed shoppers.
The Frazzled Cafe project will be held fortnightly and is hosted by trained volunteers in restaurants that have closed for the day.
The initial phase of the programme will see he be held in 11 M&S stores, including three in London as well as locations in Nottingham, Leeds and Newcastle.
The department store chain said the sessions aimed to provide a space “where people can talk openly with others who understand how they are feeling”.
The retailer also clarified the programme – which is being fronted by comedian Ruby Wax – was “not therapy”.
“We live in a time where to have a life crammed to the hilt is considered a success story,” Wax said.
“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.”
The initiative was trialled in some M&S offices and two stores last year before the decision was made expand it, Wax said today at a London Book Fair event.
The Frazzled Cafe project is in the process of becoming a registered charity.
It’s estimated that mental health issues costs the UK an estimate of £105 billion per year.
“This is a simple, pressure-free way of tackling what can be a taboo subject – feeling stressed,” M&S retail director Sacha Berendji said.
“We hope that by providing free and calm venues after the cafe has closed, we can help any members of the community who simply need to talk about things and what’s happening in their lives.”