Wellbeing: Interview with Bryony Gordon
Bryony Gordon, journalist, author and mental health campaigner, spoke to Cityparents members at our Accelerator conference in March. Here we share a few highlights from her engaging and moving talk and details of her work to encourage more openness about mental ill health.
Bryony talked openly about her own experiences of mental ill health, including OCD, bulimia and depression. She spoke poignantly about the loneliness of mental illness, saying “I thought I was the only one in the world that had these thoughts.”
At our conference, Bryony described how she became a mental health campaigner, a shift which began when she decided to write about her OCD in her weekly column for the Sunday Times ‘Stella’ magazine. She received thousands of moving responses from readers all sharing their own stories of mental illness. Bryony credits her own subsequent recovery in large part to the fact that since that article, she has been constantly acknowledging and talking about her own mental health in public. She is emphatic about the power of talking about this topic: “There are loads of ways people get better from mental ill health, but they all start by talking about it.”
In late 2016 Bryony’s second book Mad Girl charted her experiences of mental illness with dark humour and honesty. The book became a Sunday Times Number One bestseller and was nominated for a British Book Award.
Walking and talking
The same year, Bryony tweeted an invitation for anyone suffering from mental ill health to join her for a walk in Hyde Park on a particular day and time. The group of 20 who turned up for that first walk were soon joined by others and so Mental Health Mates was born. It is a network of peer support groups, run by people with mental health issues, who meet regularly to walk and talk without fear or judgement. There are now Mental Health Mates in over 70 locations around the world.
Looking after ourselves
Bryony is emphatic that we have to invest in looking after ourselves. “In our society, we run ourselves into the ground, we get competitive over how little sleep we’ve had at night, we don’t look after ourselves. But we need to get better at looking after ourselves.” But she’s quick to stress that everyone needs to find their own solution to self-care, whatever that looks like. For her, it’s walking and running - she has run the London Marathon twice for Heads Together.
A famous interviewee and a career-defining moment
Her conversations with others about mental health led to her interviewing Prince Harry over a cup of tea at Kensington Palace for the first of her podcast series called ‘Mad World’. Prince Harry talked openly about the effects of losing his mother at an early age and how his mental health suffered for two decades until he finally turned to counselling – and boxing – to help him get better.
Advice for teenagers
Her struggle to feel good about herself growing up has inspired her 5th book, being published this month. ‘You Got This: A fabulously fearless guide to being YOU’ is her first book aimed at young teens and is intended to be a guide to growing up with self-respect, esteem, love and confidence.
No teenage children? ‘It’s for the teenager in all of us’ laughs Bryony.
Released On 7th May 2019