Mad about coffee

Maureen Corrigan
MadCap Café is helping people recover from mental illness. People are given training and jobs. It has been a great success. Three cafés are now open around Melbourne. The staff say they are very happy. They can work at the café for up to six months. Staff are then helped to find another job or more training. The cafés are also helping to teach the public about mental illness. The reaction from customers has been very positive.
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Maureen Corrigan on 01/09/2011
A white cup of cafe latte with a fern design in the milk froth

MadCap founder Anthony Cheeseman is a champion barista passing on his skills

MadCap Café is helping people recover from mental illness by providing employment opportunities. It has gone above my expectations, says founder Anthony Cheeseman. Sometimes this is the first time some people have been thanked and told they have done something good. MadCap is about what we can do, not what we can't.

A lot of publicity

I visited the MadCap Café in the Fountain Gate shopping centre to talk with Anthony and the staff. There are also cafés in Geelong and Dandenong. It is a relatively new idea to help people with mental health challenges. It has been receiving a lot of publicity. There has been coverage in newspapers, television and online.

The café is an initiative of Eastern Regions Mental Health Association (Ermha). Ermha is a non-government organisation in the south east of Melbourne supporting people with mental illness. Anthony Cheeseman helped Ermha create MadCap. Anthony is a former Victorian champion barista. He loves good coffee. He also loves training people to make good coffee.

Staff program

About 40 percent of the staff working at MadCap have a mental illness. Their employment program includes certified barista training. Staff work at the café for a maximum of six months. After that time they are helped to find work elsewhere or complete further training.

Barista Wendy Beamish was thrilled to get a job at MadCap. Wendy experienced really bad post-natal depression. I found it really hard to get out and mix with people, Wendy says. I knew I had to return to work and to a job that was really flexible.

Wendy says she is very thankful for the opportunity of working at MadCap. I can't tell you how grateful I am, she says. It has changed me in so many ways. I am very happy here. I feel as if I am now a long way away from that dark place of the past.

Educate customers

The cafés feature information on their walls to help educate customers about mental health issues. There are signs in the cafés that explain that one in five people will experience mental illness sometime in their lives. MadCap Café is not-for-profit and was set up to train and employ people with mental illnesses giving an opportunity to lead a better life, the signs say.

Anthony says that the reaction from the public to the initiative has been very positive and supportive. People realise what the café is about and are amazed, Anthony says. People have embraced us. Anthony hopes new MadCap Cafés will open soon.

Readers comments (2)

Fantastic initiative. Really great to see.

Maureen , this is a wonderful initiative .I will investigate it here in Perth. Inclusion WA has a focus on mental health - coffee connects." people have embraced us" says Anthony.

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