On Thursday 6th October, Clanger Editor, Erica Roffe and #breakthestigma campaigner, Ben Salmons, headed to the London offices of the Daily Telegraph to meet up with author and journalist Bryony Gordon. “I’ve known Bryony for around 20 years,” said Erica. “When I read that she’d launched Mental Health Mates I knew that she and Ben would have a lot in common and that the opportunity to launch Mental Health Mates in Bedford was too good an opportunity to miss.”
Bryony has struggled with OCD for many years and ‘came out’ in a Telegraph column in 2015. “When I wrote the piece I had hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of letters, tweets, emails and cards from people who said, ‘me too’,” said Bryony. “My publishers asked me to write a book about it, which I did [Mad Girl was published this summer]. While writing I was struck by the idea that it would be great if everybody with a mental health issue had a ready support network to speak out to. So I settled on a date – Valentine’s Day – and sent out a tweet asking people to turn up to Hyde Park for a ‘Mental Health Mates’ meet up.” When Bryony told her husband what she’d done, he asked what she’d do if loads of mad people turned up? “I told him, ‘That’s exactly the point!’” laughs Bryony. Despite fearing that she’d be left wandering around the Serpentine on her own, Bryony was joined by 20 complete strangers who had answered her clarion call – and the Mental Health Mates movement was born.
The set-up is simple. You decide to set up Mental Health Mates group/walk in your town, you promote it locally and on the MHM Facebook group and like-minded people join you at a designated time and place.
Listening to Ben and Bryony share their stories without fear of judgement in the busy newsroom of the Daily Telegraph, it’s clear that in many cases, the stigma of mental health is reducing. However, there is still much work to do. And that’s why it would be great to launch Mental Health Mates here in Bedford. If you’ve been inspired by Bryony’s story, have been moved by Ben’s #breakthestigma campaign and want to meet others who share your experiences, please get in touch with Robert Lindsay at Just Turn Up to get the MHM ball rolling. Robert.Lindsay@bedford.gov.uk
More information about MHM walks can be found at the Mental Health Mates Facebook group and you can follow Bryony on twitter @bryonygordon.
Follow Ben Salmons @LetsBreakStigma and Just Turn Up @youjustturnup
Hear our two-part interview with Bryony here: