Our Mission Enabling and supporting people to live full and independent lives

Feet of Clay and Other Stories

By Annie Veenman

Published 2nd February 2018

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10 am on February 1st and we’re setting up at our local Costa Coffee on Hope Street, Liverpool, preparing for a day of talking about mental health to the people coming in for their favourite coffee.

It’s Time to Talk Day, we’ve called our campaign #coffeeconversations, worked hard designing just the right postcards to give to people to promote both the day and the charity, and a banner to put up outside our head office; posted on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook; written and cut out speech bubble signs to attract people through the window; blown up balloons and attached to our chalkboard sign out front. Now we’re ready to talk!

We pop on our Imagine T shirts.

We have a prime spot in the store, in the corner of the storefront by the window. We’ve put our speech bubble signs on sticks and they can be clearly seen by everyone walking along Hope Street, we watch as people take note.

Some look and walk on, but we can see it’s registered that we’re talking about mental health in store today! Others do a double take and walk back and then come into the shop, order a coffee and make a beeline for us, sit with us and talk.

They really like the fact that we’re there, in a coffee shop and we’re talking about mental health, it’s relaxed and everyday, we ‘ve handwritten a sign that says ‘come and talk to us’. They’re not in a G.P. surgery, not talking to someone over the phone or behind a desk.

We get great feedback.  ‘Pleasantly surprised’, ‘love it’, ‘so glad you’re here’, ‘this is fantastic’, ‘so good to see it’s about mental health’, ‘I used to work in mental health, thrilled to see you’re out in the community’.

A Costa coffee employee replies to one of our Instagram posts ‘I think it’s a fantastic idea but primarily am loving you’re being so proactive in Costa (Costa employee :D) where people can be so open to talk about mental health. I’ve had therapy sessions in coffee shops like Costa before as I know others have and it’s nothing to be ashamed of!’

There’s a constant stream of people coming in all day and we keep up a count of how many we’ve reached and it’s over 300 people.

We tell people about our services, how important it is to talk about mental health, we connect, we listen, we empathise, we laugh, we share, we feel sad, we feel good, we help and sign post where we can. People want to talk, they put £2 in our collection bucket to pass on a coffee conversation to the people we help in our services.

Short conversations, long conversations, just reading the information(s!), raising awareness, normalising mental health, tweets, retweets, Facebook and Instagram we feel we made a great contribution, and:

To the lady who was tearful and worried about her husband, we hope just sharing it with us helped you think things through and you contacted the organisations we suggested.

To the man whose son had just come through a really bad time with his mental health, we’re glad things are starting to get better.

To the man who came in with his support worker. You’re doing great!

To the cheerful fellow who saw our sign and thought ‘mental health – that’s me’ and who’d accessed mental health services for years and who told us about the cocktail of drugs he’d been on – you rock!

To the man who came over who’d recently gone through a bad time and wanted to put back and volunteer with us – glad to have you on board!

To the man from Italy and his friends ‘Signor Potato’! You made us laugh out loud with your antics. Thanks for posing for a photo and letting us share it out in a tweet.  Our conversation about homelessness and mental health showed us people really do care.

For the lovely lady on the way for some quiet, me time at the Cathedral, glad you came in to speak to us instead. Your story about your own mental health, losing contact with your sister who had mental health issues herself and your plan to get back in touch after two years by sending a poem with the first lines ‘Feet of clay, but a heart full of love’ was inspirational.  You’re brave. Thank you.

To everyone in coffee shops everywhere enjoying a coffee and a conversation – keep on talking, caring, sharing.

Last but not least – we can’t say enough good things about all the staff at this Costa. From offering us a coffee on the house to start the day to letting us set up in a prime spot in the store, to putting our postcards on the trays of all the customers, you are a credit to the company.