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Café where hugs are on the menu

By Katy Regan
Rachel Robson and Susan Brown say that it’s vital to talk about mental health

Susan Brown and Rachel Robson’s Tyne and Wear café, Cloud Nine Wellbeing, offers a lifeline to people with mental health issues

When you hear how Cloud Nine Wellbeing is improving the lives of local people – especially those with mental health issues – you wonder why there aren’t more places like it.

“It’s like a public health revolution,” say Rachel Robson and her wife, Susan Brown, of Cloud Nine Wellbeing. Opened in June 2016, it’s a café, coffee shop and holistic therapy centre in Cullercoats, Tyne and Wear.  

Susan and Rachel were both unhappy at work and their own mental health was suffering, until Susan decided to quit her job and they opened Cloud Nine. 

They came up with the idea to combine a coffee shop, which Rachel would run, with a place for Susan to practise alternative therapies. 

“Above all, we wanted to do something together that would help local people,” says Susan. 

As well as serving healthy food, Cloud Nine Wellbeing offers therapies ranging from reiki to massage and mindfulness. 

Susan gives instructions at a Cloud Nine Wellbeing session

With everything it offers, it’s easy to see how Cloud Nine has become, as they put it, a ‘lifeline’ to the community – especially for those suffering from panic attacks, loneliness, depression and other mental health issues.  

Hugs are handed out like cups of coffee. “We have one lady who comes in every Tuesday for a hug,” says Rachel. “Her husband is very ill with Alzheimer’s, and I don’t think she has anyone else. There is also a gentleman who told me that before he came across Cloud Nine Wellbeing, he had never been into a coffee shop because of his social anxiety. Now, he comes in three times a day for a chat and a coffee.”

In her therapy room at Cloud Nine, Susan treats everyone from teenagers to the elderly. “People message us before coming, saying they don’t know where else to turn. I tell them it’s going to be all right, that all they have to do is to get through the next few hours.

“We aim to make this a calm space where people can feel safe – even at their worst ebb. It’s so fulfilling when you get a call from someone in tears, so grateful that you’ve made them feel better,” says Susan. 

Rachel agrees: “We believe that meditation, mindfulness and talking openly about mental health is as vital as brushing your teeth.”