Who we are

Bryony Gordon

Founder

Her name is Bryony and she is mental. A fruit-loop. Whatever else you want to throw at her – she doesn’t care, because her head has thrown her much worse. Bryony has OCD and over the years has also suffered from depression, bulimia and drug dependency. Most of this she did completely alone, just like everyone else who suffers from mental illness. Back in January 2016, Bryony was in a terrible funk because she had just spent several months writing a memoir of her mental health, and who knew that writing about mental illness might make you… well, mentally ill? So there she was, out in the park trying to run away her OCD, listening to a Jarvis Cocker documentary about the author Carson McCullers, whose relatively short life was dogged by depression and alcoholism. There was some archive audio of her saying: ‘everyone is part of a We except me’. Her words stopped Bryony in her tracks. “No!” I thought. “No, you were wrong! You belonged to a ‘We’, but you just didn’t know it!” So she went home and decided to find that ‘We’. Bryony posted on Twitter, suggesting a regular meet-up for people with mental health issues, where they could walk and talk without fear of judgement. She suggested a date and a place: Valentine’s Day, at the Lido Café in Hyde Park. She wondered if she gone properly mad as she left home that cold, wet Sunday morning. But then 20 people turned up, and Mental Health Mates has continued to grow ever since.

Mika Simmons

Co-founder

In 2017 Bryony Gordon approached Mika Simmons to join the team at Mental Health Mates. With a wealth of experience acquired from founding and Directing the Lady Garden Campaign, a major movement to raise international awareness about the symptoms of Gynaecological Cancers – ahead of the curve, the key message was body positivity, encouraging women to talk with less shame about all aspects of their physical health.

Mika has a vested interested in supporting mental health awareness having had to seek many ways to find wellness after bullying as a child which lead to severe bouts of depression.

Mika Simmons also works as an actress, writer and film director.

In 2017 Mika was chosen as one of 40 inspirational British women to front L’Oréal Lancôme’s powerful women campaign.

Steve Wilks

Non-Executive Director

With a long career in the financial services, retail and charity sectors, Steve brings the experience gained through leadership roles at Experian, Accenture and Visa Europe. He is also a Founding Director of For Good Causes, a company that creates new and innovative ways for Charities to fundraise, and targeted with raising £500m for UK Charities over the next five years.

He supports Mental Health Mates because he is passionate about enabling people to access effective support and to address the isolation and stigma associated with all forms of mental health issues.  Having felt the impact at first hand amongst family and friends, Steve joined the board of Mental Health Mates to help with the mission of making the support of Mental Health Mates easily available to as many people as possible.

Kat Leishman

Ambassador, Operations & Social Media Director

As a fan of Bryony’s book and writing, Kat had recently begun following her on Twitter when she posted asking if anyone would be interested in a regular meet up for people with mental health issues. Encouraged by the way Bryony spoke about her own mental health issues and the relaxed nature of the event Kat was keen to go – she attended my first Mental Health Mates walk in February 2016 and now leads the monthly Clapham Common walk. Not long after the first few walks, Kat (along with a several others) offered to help Bryony with the running of Mental Health Mates due to its growing popularity and attendee numbers. Since then they have established a social media presence (on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram), created Walk Leader Packs for potential volunteers and continued to help run Mental Health Mates on a daily basis.

Walk Leaders

The Walk Leaders are a key part of the Mental Health Mates team, organising and promoting their local walks. Here’s what a couple of the Walk Leaders have to say:

For me, being a walk leader has been the most wonderful, purposeful and rewarding experiences.
I had always wanted people to feel less alone when dealing with mental Illness, through personal experience I never wanted anyone to feel like they were isolated and not understood like I did, so MHM gave me the perfect opportunity to reach out to my local Community and provide a space for people to meet like minded peers.
Seeing how the regular attendees have managed their mental health and the journey they have been on has been unbelievably rewarding and I feel a deep sense of pride in being able to play a small part on their journey back to good mental health.
Setting up the first walk was daunting but 2 and a half years in, I am so grateful that I did for both the space it provides for the attendees and on a personal level, for how much it’s helped me by meeting such a wonderful bunch of people!

Kate, Leeds Walk Leader

Leading MHMs Newcastle I feel I have found a little community of genuinely lovely people who want to be there for each other in good times and bad. I certainly never had anyone I could talk openly to about my mental health before getting involved. The relaxed and informal nature of the meet ups helps to ease the nerves and there’s never any pressure to open up, but when we do the support is always there. In the two and a half years leading the walks it’s been amazing to see the growth and strength of the regulars; positively looking out for each other and making the bad days just that little bit more bearable for us all. It’s always amazing to see newcomers, knowing that our message of support continues to spread and they feel some benefit from attending. I’m so grateful to Bryony for coming up with the idea of mental health mates and I feel very privileged to lead Newcastle MHMs.

Natalie, Newcastle Walk Leader

Jenny Monro

Web Designer

After reading Bryony’s story about setting up Mental Health Mates in what seemed like every magazine she picked up, Jenny felt compelled to get in touch offering to build a website. From this first message, Jenny has been pleased to be able to support MHM with web development, setting up email accounts and some of the other services she provides through her business support company, Business Arch.

Supporting Mental Health Mates remains close to Jenny’s heart. In the last year she has seen first hand the importance of finding people who understand the struggles caused by mental health issues.