Fellows of the Mental Health Collective, 2021

This New Year’s Day, we are delighted to announce that the following people have been recognised as Fellows of the Mental Health Collective:

Harry Baker-Smith FMHC
Majella Greene FMHC
Matthew McStravick FMHC
Natalie Creary FMHC
Sarah Cavendish FMHC
Shubulade Smith FMHC
Stephanie Hatch FMHC

For more information about the fellowship, see here.

MHC Director recognised in Leading Lights awards

Mental Health Collective Director Dr Amy Pollard has been named in 2020 Kindness & Leadership, 50 Leading Lights UK list. ✨

The business world is quick to praise leaders of profitable and productive workplaces. But these celebrations often overlook the role played by kindness. The Leading Lights list places kindness firmly at the centre of any leadership debate and encourages us all, no matter our role or background to lead with kindness. 

Kindness & Leadership, 50 Leading Lights was set up in 2018 with the goal of radically challenging the global leadership conversation by placing a spotlight on leaders around the world who are using the power of kindness to make a massive impact in business and to empower change.

The 2020 campaign, supported by Lloyds Banking Group, has listed Amy Pollard as one of 50 ‘Leading Lights’ for 2020. It is great to have Amy’s leadership in the mental health sector and in founding our #KindnessByPost movement recognised in this way! A huge congratulations to Amy from everyone on the team here at MHC!  ✨

The #KindnessByPost Zine is here!

Today is World Kindness Day, and marks a year to the day that we first tested our prototype technology for #KindnessByPost. In a whirlwind twelve months, we grown to become the UK’s leading random acts of kindness exchange!

To celebrate this remarkable journey, we’ve put together a Zine which tells the story of #KindnessByPost so far. Here it is!

Fellows of the Mental Health Collective, 2020

This New Year’s Day, we are delighted to announce that the following people have been recognised as Fellows of the Mental Health Collective:

Akiko Hart FMHC
Alex Ruck Keene FMHC
Andy Pakula FMHC
Anna Warhurst FMHC
Bethan Buswell FMHC
Bryn Lloyd-Evans FMHC
Darren Springer FMHC
Dinesh Bhugra FMHC
Gavin Atkins FMHC
Gemma Bowden FMHC
Gill Pelage FMHC
Hannah Chamberlain FMHC
Howard Pearce FMHC
Ian Braid FMHC
Jamie Fairbank FMHC
Jo Harrington FMHC
Johann Hari FMHC
Julia Ogunmuyiwa FMHC
Kathy Roberts FMHC
Katie Mitchell FMHC
Kevin McNamara FMHC
Mark Trewin FMHC
Martyn Illingworth FMHC
Matty May FMHC
Pooky Knightsbridge FMHC
Priscila Hernandez FMHC
Sarah Markham FMHC
Sergio A. Silverio FMHC
Steve Chamberlain FMHC
Una Foye FMHC
Victoria Bleazard FMHC

For more information about the Mental Health Collective Fellowship, see here.

OpenCredo bring the power of tech to Mental Health Collective’s Kindness-by-Post project

Amy, Anna and the OpenCredo team

At Mental Health Collective we have been blessed with support from an incredible range of people.  Achieving our mission as a new not-for-profit is a challenging (if wonderful!) business, and for me, it sometimes feels like climbing a mountain. We’ve been incredibly fortunate so far.  At those moments when the climb has taken its toll and my knees have started to give way, one of our fellow travellers has turned up with some metaphorical mint cake and a flask of tea, giving me the encouragement and resolve I need to walk the next mile.

Recently though, we’ve been given some support that is truly transformative.  It hasn’t been about helping me take the next step; or helping us navigate a patch of tricky ground:  It’s been the not-for-profit equivalent of building a cable car that will allow us to travel with ease across the steepest and most treacherous section of our mountain – not just once but lots of times in the future. 

OpenCredo, a technology consultancy specialising in cloud native architecture and data engineering, have generously been giving their time pro-bono to build an online platform for our Kindness-by-Post project.  This project enables members of the public to send a homemade card with a message of goodwill to someone they don’t know, and have someone allocated to send a card to them. We were fortunate to be in touch with OpenCredo about the project just as they’d made a decision to increase their charitable contributions as a company – an incredible stroke of luck. 

We piloted Kindness-by-Post in February this year through the #GreatBritishValentine, and were completely overwhelmed by the response.  Over 1000 people signed up, with participants from every county in England and two-thirds of the counties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Extraordinarily gorgeous cards criss-crossed the country with blessings, affirmations, suggestions for songs and favourite books, and just simple messages of good wishes and positivity.  Tea bags and coffee sachets were sent through the post, so that the recipient could have a nice brew.  Beautiful, poignant, heart-felt letters, with words crafted for someone to hold onto when life is at its bleakest.  Funny, silly, cheesy cards, with puns and dancing pineapples.  A handful of confetti, each piece inscribed with love and affirmations.  A card with all the different meanings of love from ancient Greece.  A card ordered from an online greetings card company by someone who is too unwell to get to the post-box.

It was incredibly moving and beautiful – but also absolutely exhausting from an organiser’s point of view!  We had organised it using free tools from the internet, a mail merge and a few favours from friends – a very rudimentary system which required an enormous amount of elbow grease to prevent it from falling over.  There is no way we could have coped with higher numbers of participants (although research was suggesting that demand was high).  The labour involved wasn’t sustainable.  If we carried on this metaphorical mountain path, we’d soon be reaching for the emergency whisky and a lick from a Saint Bernard. 

We needed a proper system and, to my enormous delight, OpenCredo pledged to help us build it.    

The online platform that OpenCredo are building for Kindness-by-Post will lift huge chunks of the organisational burden.  With a robust system for organising and managing the data, it will help us to match participants and keep things organised, designing away some of the most labour-intensive organisational tasks and giving us a reliable system for Kindness-by-Post that we can use again and again.  All being well, the online platform should give us the capacity to welcome participants to Kindness-by-Post at significant scale without finding ourselves overwhelmed, and use this technology whenever we want to run a new exchange.  We’ve been working with their fabulous team over the summer and are aiming to take the new system for a test run in October.

Achieving our mission is a long journey and there will doubtless be lots of challenges to come.  But it’s been incredible to realise that we don’t have to take every step on our own. 

When you’re facing what seems like an impossible climb, it’s just possible that someone might build you a cable car.

#techforgood #kindnessbypost #mentalhealth

Volunteering opportunities: Kindness-By-Post Student Champions

We are currently recruiting for student volunteers to join our team of Kindness-by-Post Champions. 

The Mental Health Collective’s Kindness-by-Post project enables strangers to exchange homemade cards with messages of goodwill, kindness and encouragement at difficult moments in the year.  It works like a great big secret santa, for messages of goodwill.  We ran this scheme for the first time for Valentine’s Day 2019, and saw hundreds of beautiful cards criss-crossing the country with the most incredible, lovely messages.

Our vision is to create a new, nationwide tradition where strangers can exchange messages of kindness every Valentine’s Day, as well as at other difficult times of year that are nominated by our community. People who feel they are falling apart often feel alone. Through Kindness-by-Post, we want people to have opportunity to turn a difficult time into a moment to connect with others.

The first term of the academic year can be a difficult time for students, so this autumn we are planning a “First Term Encouragement” exchange, aimed at university students in London and Liverpool. The Kindness-by-Post Student Champions will play a key role in helping us run this exchange, and in our broader work to develop and expand the Kindness-by-Post programme.

This volunteer role involves:

  • Helping test our new Kindness-by-Post registration system
  • Participating and giving feedback to help us improve the design of the programme
  • Promoting Kindness-by-Post and inviting friends, fellow students, and others to take part
  • Helping us identify appropriate moments in the year for Kindness-by-Post exchanges
  • Being part of our team to make Kindness-by-Post a positive movement for hope
  • Other tasks and opportunities that may arise

The Student Champion role can be done remotely, with occasional face-to-face meetings in central London or Liverpool.  Time required will fluctuate (with more activity during Kindness-by-Post exchanges), and Student Champions can pause or stop their engagement at any time.  We anticipate that Student Champions will take part in a variety of short activities, and that the average time commitment will total no more than a few hours each month. Activities might include: 

  • Video calls and phone calls
  • Emails and desk-based tasks
  • Making and sending cards
  • Social media engagement and outreach
  • Occasional face to face meetings (in either London or Liverpool)

The role would suit anyone wanting to gain work experience in the not-for-profit sector, and who shares our passion for helping people find new ways of coming together to improve mental health. 

To apply please complete a short application form by 25th July 2019.

Mental Health Collective’s Media Manager, Cal Strode, gives evidence in Parliament

It was an incredibly proud moment yesterday, watching Cal Strode, Mental Health Collective’s Media Manager, give evidence in Parliament to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration. The committee was chaired by Chuka Umunna MP, and includes Wera Hobhouse MP and Dr Paul Williams MP.

Cal gave evidence from our report, co-authored with 34 young people, “There are No #PhoneZombies: Thinking for ourselves about mobile phones and mental health”. He pressed parliamentarians to ensure that the algorithms that lie behind social media are regulated so that they foster connections between people, rather than artificially inflaming polarisation and conflict. With a message of hope and highlighting opportunities to bridge generational divides, Cal argued that we can take back the impetus and make our own decisions about where we want to go with this technology next.

Mental Health Collective Fellows, Kate King and Steve Gilbert, recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List

Kate King FMHC MBE
Steve Gilbert FMHC OBE

We are absolutely bursting with pride to announce that two of Mental Health Collective’s Fellows, Kate King FMHC and Steve Gilbert FMHC, have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to mental health and mental health legislative reform.

Steve and Kate are inspirational figures in the mental health world, who draw on their lived experience to advise policymakers and organisations on how they can improve outcomes in mental health. They played pivotal roles in the recent Mental Health Act Review which calls for greater dignity, choice and respect for those held under section.

Kate said: “I was stunned to be nominated:  secure ward to MBE in 10 years! However, I know that I was only able to work effectively for the Review because so many people with lived experience contributed either directly or indirectly, and so many continue to work to give a voice to those with living with mental health disabilities: they truly deserve our honour and respect and thanks.”

Steve said:   “This is one of the most amazing things to happen in my life and I am grinning from ear to ear. I am so thankful to everyone who has supported me over the past 10+ years, both in terms of my mental illness and the work that I do. It has helped me more than you will ever know.  I hope that these three small letters will help me create more opportunities for change, and to be able to continue fighting to ensure people living with a mental illness get the care and support they need.” 

We are beyond thrilled that the honour of Steve and Kate has been recognised. Massive congratulations to them both!

Work experience opportunities for 14, 15 and 16 year olds in North London

The Mental Health Collective is looking for 14, 15 and 16 year olds who live in striking distance of Crouch End (North London), and would like to get some work experience in our non-profit mental health organisation.

The work experience sessions will happen on Sundays, late afternoon, in March and early April.  We’ve designed these roles so they meet the volunteering criterion for the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme – but they would be good for anyone who wants to have fun and get some work experience. 

The project you’ll be working on is called “PhoneZombies!” – it’s about mental health, mobile phones and moral panic.  Are mobile phones disconnecting us from each other, zoning us out and damaging our mental health?  Are we turning into some kind of phone zombies?  Or is this a moral panic – like in the 1950s when people thought that rock and roll music was poisoning teenagers brains?

You could volunteer either on your own or with friends, and join one of three teams:

1. Film making team
This team will make some zombie movies about people on their phones!  We need people to act in and make the films, and then we are going to have a film premiere on Sunday 31st March at the Crouch End Picture House – on a proper big cinema screen.

2. Research team
This team will help get to the bottom of what’s really going on with mobile phones and mental health.  You’ll get involved in real, on-the-ground research to help us figure out the key questions, write a report that will be published on the Mental Health , and be acknowledged as an author.

3. Marketing and Communications team
This team will lead on promoting the films and research report so they reach the widest possible audience – getting people along to the launch event at the cinema and share materials online.  Together, we will play an April Fools joke that is the crescendo for this project. 

We’ll do our planning sessions at the Highgate Cricket and Lawn Tennis club, off Park Road – just next to Highgate Wood school (W7 bus, nearest tube is Highgate).

If you would like some work experience with the Mental Health Collective and join one of our teams, please register here.

Key dates
Sunday 3rd March, 4pm – 5:30pm.
Highgate Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club.

Sunday 10th March, 4pm – 5:30pm.
Highgate Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club.

Sunday 17th March, 4pm – 5:30pm.
Highgate Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club.

Sunday 24th March, 4:30pm – 5:30pm
Highgate Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club.

Sunday 31st March, 11:00am – 12:00.
Film Premiere and Research Launch, Crouch End Picturehouse, Screen 4.

Monday 1st April (morning).
April Fools joke is played (no physical meeting).

Sunday 7th April (late afternoon)
Evaluation and wrap party. Location tbc.

Very positive evaluation for Living Advent Calendar

Opening up the survey results with feedback on your own projects is always a slighting anxiety inducing experience. But in all my time as a researcher, I can’t remember a more lovely surprise than when I opened up the file to see what participants thought of our Living Advent Calendar project.

The project gets volunteers from 24 houses and hubs in the local community to illuminate their windows with festive decorations in December. One window is ‘opened’ each day from the 1st to the 24th December and remains illuminated until 12th night.

Totaling up feedback from the first four years of the project (2015-2018), 89% of participants gave the Living Advent Calendar the maximum rating for its overall success, with no individual rating it as neutral or negative. 85% of respondents gave the project the maximum positive rating in terms of their own experience, with no individual rating it as neutral or negative for them personally. Whilst this evaluation was modest in its scope, it’s hard not to conclude that the Living Advent Calendar as been a resounding success. Even with the most temperate scholarly attitude, it’s hard to interpret this data as suggesting anything else.

Qualitative quotes describe the joy that the calendar has brought, and how valuable it has been for bringing people together. The most common recurring word to describe the project was “lovely”:

“Obsessed with it… being able to take part changes how I feel about the whole area”

“It’s so lovely…to have a heartwarming experience walking around this area after dark, especially given the reports of crime”

“Such a magical way to bring the community together!”

“Really enjoyed getting to know neighbours”

“Makes the neighbourhood feel more accessible and gives it a warm personality”

The calendar was featured as a case study by the Eden Project, and has inspired similar projects in Manchester, Walthamstow, Weston-Super-Mare, Norwich and Somerset.  

You can download the full data set here.