A cake by Jacqui Kelly. Photograph: Miss Cakehead on Facebook
A cake by Jacqui Kelly. Photograph: Miss Cakehead on Facebook

grace-clarke-bylineOn Saturday, the Depressed Cake Shop opens its doors in York. Grace Clarke talks to the organisers, and reveals why it means so much to her

A couple of years ago I talked myself into making an appointment with a GP. I sat, sweaty and shaking in a waiting room, surrounded by pregnant women and excitable children climbing on chairs.

My mind drifted onto the big questions. Do the NHS have some kind of contract forcing them to play Radio 2? Why can’t they get some up to date magazines? Should the leaflets on sexual health really be so close to the children’s toys?

I was eventually called in for my ten minute appointment. I sat in front of a woman I’d never seen before, a woman who looked distinctly disinterested in me, and told her I thought I was going crazy.

She looked me up and down and said: “Do you exercise?” I arrived feeling miserable. I left feeling morbidly obese. But nevertheless I had a prescription for Fluoxetine, which, incidentally, is supposed to make you lose weight. How great is that? I should be happy and thin within the month…

I wasn’t (did you see that coming?) and I didn’t enjoy it at all. It felt like I was hiding from the problem when I should have been facing it. I wasn’t offered CBT or any talking therapies, I wasn’t given an awful lot of information about Fluoxetine, and I wasn’t given any real support.

Now with the NHS becoming more consumer led things are only going to get worse. We’re expected to know what to ask our doctors for, I didn’t even really know what was wrong with me when I turned up there, let alone what I wanted to do about it.

Slice into that loneliness… Photograph: Miss Cakehead on Twitter
Slice into that loneliness… Photograph: Miss Cakehead on Twitter

In the last two years spending on mental health care has fallen, despite one in four people suffering from mental ill health in their lifetime. GPs don’t receive adequate training and ten minutes isn’t enough, waiting lists for talking therapies are months long and people are giving up.

Or getting put on medication when what they really need is a GP with time to talk. With around 25 per cent of appointments made being for mental health, surely we should be putting more money and time into it?

It seems to me, that as a whole, we struggle to accept pain we can’t see.

With these ridiculous waiting lists, people end up taking matters into their own hands. And no I don’t mean instantly turning to drink and drugs, although we do need to accept that that is a reality.

In this instance I mean putting time and energy into creativity. The Depressed Cake Shop comes to York tomorrow (Saturday) with a range of locally baked grey cakes to demonstrate just how therapeutic baking can be, and to raise awareness of mental health in general.

The Depressed Cake Shop idea came from blogger Emma Thomas, aka Miss Cakehead, and was initially only taking place in London. It’s popularity grew and now there are 27 pop ups taking place this weekend, with some as far away as Kuala Lumpur.

Claire Gibb, who has organised the York event, said: “I can’t believe how popular the event has been. We’ve been inundated with offers from local cafes like the Pig and Pastry, and Flax and Twine to independent cake makers.”

It takes most of my strength to restrain myself from diving into the Pig and Pastry on my morning walk to work.

Psychotic swiss roll made by Lou Lou P's Delights. Photograph: Miss Cakehead on Facebook
Psychotic swiss roll made by Lou Lou P’s Delights. Photograph: Miss Cakehead on Facebook

As I said, baking can be incredibly therapeutic when dealing with depression, so it’s no surprise that some of the bakers involved suffer from mental ill health themselves. One baker started her cake baking business when she was forced to leave her high profile job when depression left her unable to work.

Ceri Hughes, who is diagnosed with psychosis said: “Making cake helped me when I was feeling really rubbish about myself. There is so much negativity out there about mental illness, and about people like me on disability benefits. I felt like everybody must hate me for being ‘mad’ and a ‘scrounger’.

“But making cake and sharing it with friends helped me to feel included and part of society again.”

Proceeds from each of the pop ups go to local charities. In York these are York Mind and Young Carers.

York Mind are incredible. They focus on recovery and getting people back into education or work. They offer self help groups, activity groups, a mentoring service, skills training and work experience in an accepting, understanding environment.

Young Carers are such an inspirational bunch too, they support young people aged between 8 and 18 who care for someone at home who is suffering from a mental health issue, alcohol or drug addiction, a disability or an illness. In York alone there are at least four hundred young carers. Young Carers offer youth groups, day trips and one to one support for those who need it.

Hopefully this is the start of something huge and we’ll see The Depressed Cake shop again next year.

 


  • The Depressed Cake Shop is in Newgate Market (at the back of Marks & Spencer’s) from 9.30am to 5.30pm on Saturday, August 3
  • Event organiser Claire Gibb and Ceri Hughes did an interview on BBC Radio York which is available on the iPlayer and really worth a listen. It starts at 9 minutes in