This year has been extraordinarily tough for those with existing mental health issues, with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic having reshaped our lives and routines in ways we simply couldn’t have imagined just one year ago.
Many of us will now be working from home, feeling a little isolated from the world and perhaps going for long stretches at a time without speaking to a friend or family member face-to-face.
Others will be spending their days out on the front lines, serving the public in various essential ways under highly pressurised and ever-changing circumstances.
So it’s always cheering to find that there are tremendously good people out there who consider the mental wellbeing of others in everything they do. People like wives Kiera and Aimie, who run Feel Good Club, a Manchester-based wellbeing coffee house and bar.
The Feel Good Club, which will remain open for takeaways throughout the national lockdown, is far more than just a place where you can get a nice cup of coffee and a yummy cake (although I hear from reliable sources that their coffee is excellent).
Kiera and Aimie, who have been together for 10 years and married for two, are both ‘passionate about positive mental health’, and this passion shines through every element of their unique enterprise.
With mental health first aid-trained members of staff behind the counter, Feel Good Club is designed with ‘people in mind’, according to Kiera, who told UNILAD:
We knew we wanted a large open space, with tonnes of natural lights and plants which are known to have a positive impact on mental health and mood.
We carefully designed different spaces for people to sit in order to make them feel comfortable; a coffee shop full of tables can be overwhelming for some people, so we’ve created window seating where people can put their feet up, floor seating to feel grounded, and a green house for people who may not want to be in the thick of the space.
The inspiration for the Feel Good Club can be traced back to over six years ago, back when Kiera was recovering from an eating disorder.
Wanting to explore self-care during her recovery, Kiera kickstarted the Feel Good Club brand, selling home-made soy candles. After a while, she found she was unable to keep up with demand and put her ideas on ice after getting a ‘real job’.
However, the spouses never quite gave up on the dream of doing something more with the brand and, after their 2019 wedding, decided to pick it up again as a team; creating a beautiful and inspiring Instagram page filled with life-affirming messages and mental health advice.
Kiera told UNILAD:
We don’t claim to be professionals, we just talk from lived experience with our own mental health. We also began learning how to screen print and sew in our spare bedroom, creating merch to spread the message of the brand and its values.
But we always knew what we were working towards: our feel good club coffee house, a place where talking about mental health is encouraged and no matter who you are, you are welcome in our home.
According to Kiera, Feel Good Club staff members are each ‘individually passionate about mental health and supporting others’, and many have already used their training to support struggling customers.
Mirroring the popular Instagram page, the café has plenty of uplifting messaging sprinkled about the décor, with careful thought going into every aspect of the design process to ensure a positive and welcoming space.
The café opened last month, just weeks before the second national lockdown. However, the good people of Manchester have already taken the new establishment to their hearts, with Kiera describing the response as ‘unreal’.
We’ve had customers who have approached us to let us know that visiting our space has been their first time out for such a long time because they suffer with crippling social anxiety – and when we see them in there time and time again because of the open and accepting place we’ve created, it really is overwhelming.
People have described walking through the door as a huge invisible hug and that the atmosphere is always so calming and welcoming. We watch people sit on our window seats alone, reading their books with their feet up or drawing and it’s exactly the place we wanted to create.
Unfortunately, the new restrictions have put a temporary halt to some of the fun the wives had planned, including various events and workshops where people could try out new hobbies or revisit old interests.
Determined to make the best out of things, the one-of-a-kind café has hosted live music and spoken word events over the past two weeks, giving customers one last ‘slice of normality’ before the country enters lockdown again.
However, those in the area can still benefit from the intrinsic warmth and goodness that radiates from the doors of the Feel Good Club, with mental health first aiders remaining on hand to offer emotional support alongside hot takeaway coffees.
You can find out more on the Feel Good Club Instagram page.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58 and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.
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