Wagamama have pledged £60,000 this year to help grow the number of walks and awareness of Mental Health Mates and the amazing work they do.
Read more about the partnership on wagamama’s website here
Whether you’re brand new to Mental Health Mates and wondering what on earth it is, or you’ve attended a walk and you’d like to find out how to organise something in your area, we’ve answered your FAQs (frequently asked questions) below.
FAQs About Attending a Walk or Meet-Up
What happens at a MHM walk?
We normally start with a cup of tea or coffee and a brief chat, running through the few simple ground rules of Mental Health Mates. We then head off on our walk around the park or public space (weather-dependent!). You can talk as much or as little as you like – about mental health topics or something completely different. This isn’t therapy; it’s simply a chance to meet like-minded people. What’s discussed in the group is confidential. You’re fee to leave early for any reason, but please let the group leader know.
At the end of the walk, we like to take a group photo for our social media pages, but anyone who doesn’t want to be in the photo can opt out.
After the walk, you’re welcome to stay for another cuppa. During our occasional evening meet-ups, more common in summer, we might suggest having a post-walk drink in a pub (non-alcoholic if you want), but please let us know if this isn’t suitable for you.
When is the next Mental Health Mates meet-up or walk in my area?
Do I have to tell you I’m attending?
If possible, let us know you’ll be attending, by emailing your walk leader (their email will be mentioned in the walk listing on this website) or by leaving a comment on the walk poster displayed on social media. This means we have an idea of numbers, and the walk leader knows to hang around if you’re running late!
For some of our larger walks, we ask that you register before arriving via Eventbrite.co.uk. This involves reserving a free ticket by leaving your email address. We will always tell you when a walk leader is using Eventbrite, and we provide the link to their listing, where you can sign up.
You don’t need to print your Eventbrite confirmation – your walk leader will have a list of names and can check you in when you arrive.
What happens if I’m running late?
Walk leaders tend to wait about 10 minutes after the meeting time listed. Any later than this, and they will have to start the walk so it finishes on time. However, most walks are circular routes, so you could wait for the group to arrive back at the starting point if you want to.
Can I bring people with me to the meet-up?
Yes, you can bring people with you – friends, family, and so on – and there are no age restrictions on our walks. Children and pets are welcome, though if you’re bringing a dog (as people sometimes do), please be aware some cafes at meeting points or on our routes may not be dog-friendly.
If you’re due to attend a walk and you have a phobia of dogs, or an allergy to dogs, do let your walk leader know, so they can advise everyone not to bring their pets.
I don’t have a mental health condition myself, but can I still attend?
Absolutely. We realise mental illness doesn’t just affect individuals – it affects their friends, family, carers and colleagues, too. Your experience of helping someone with a mental health issue matters, as does your own mental wellbeing.
I struggle with social anxiety and may find it difficult to reach the walk on the day. Is that a problem?
Please don’t worry – we understand that conditions like social anxiety, and many other mental health issues, might affect your journey to the walk. If you need a little extra support, or just a clearer idea of how to get to the meeting point, please email your walk leader ahead of the event so they know in advance that you might need help on the day.
Of course, if you find you can’t get to the walk on the day, for whatever reason, don’t feel you’ve let us down. Life happens, things get in the way, and nobody will be offended. There is always next time.
How strenuous are the walks? Do I need to bring or wear anything special?
Walks are suitable for all abilities, and tend to be circular routes that last about 45 minutes, possibly with a short break in the middle. You don’t need special footwear or equipment – these are accessible walks, usually in city parks, in the countryside or by the sea.
General FAQs about Mental Health Mates
How did MHM start?
Mental Health Mates was founded by journalist and author Bryony Gordon, after listening to a radio documentary about the author Carson McCullers. You can read Bryony’s story here.
Using the magic of Twitter, the first meet-up was held on Valentine’s Day 2016, when roughly 20 people walked and jogged around the Serpentine on a freezing cold but sunny morning. Since then the group has met regularly in London and, in July 2016, Leeds became the second city to host a meet-up.
Can you give me advice on medication or mental health treatment?
As we are not medical professionals or therapists, we can’t give advice of this nature. Mental Health Mates is an informal peer support group, and we suggest any issues relating to specific treatments or medications are taken up with your own GP, psychiatrist or therapist, who is qualified to help.
Please see our support page for a list of useful helplines and websites.
FAQs about Mental Health Mates’ Social Media
Why have you deleted my comment in the MHM Facebook group?
Unfortunately, any post that breaches the Mental Health Mates guidelines will be deleted. MHM is an upbeat and friendly community and, as such, we don’t leave any content on the page that may be triggering for other users.
Why can’t I create a post in the MHM Facebook group?
We have limited time to manage our social networks, and our Facebook group is primarily a place for walk leaders to promote their walks. We have now set the group to accept admin posts only, giving us more time to focus on creating new walks and support you in the most productive way possible.
I don’t use social media. Can I still see your content?
You can view our Twitter and Instagram accounts on any internet browser, without being a member of those social networks. This website is the main way for you to track MHM, so why not bookmark it to save time?
We look forward to seeing you at a Mental Health Mates walk soon.
FAQ about setting up a new Mental Health Mates walk
Why isn’t there a meet-up or walk in my area?
All our walk leaders are volunteers, managing their own mental health issues and day-to-day commitments. Therefore, we can only start new walks in areas where there is a volunteer willing to lead. For more info on starting a new MHM walk, see the next FAQ.
We do post appeals for new walk leaders, so if you would like to request a new walk in your area (and are unable to become a walk leader yourself), please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line, ‘MHM walk request’.
How do I start my own local meet-up?
Check our walks page to see if we’ve already held a walk in your area. Next, get in touch with Bryony and the team via our walk leader email address, email@example.com and we’ll set the ball rolling.
To find out what leading a walk entails, please download our two PDF files, the walk leader pack and poster creation guide. These give you all the information you need to organise and promote your MHM walk, with our support.
What do walk leaders do?
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