Today is International Women’s Day, and I thought I’d to use the occasion to highlight women who are bringing about real change in the sphere of mental health. There are so many amazing mental health campaigners out there, and this is in no way an exhaustive list. Rather, these are 12 women who have stood out to me on my own mental health journey, whether I’ve been campaigning alongside them, reading their books and blogs, or even secretly admiring them on Twitter! Here they are, in no particular order:
Involvement Officer for Children and Young People at Time to Change
My own journey as a mental health campaigner is in a way all thanks to Joss. As the involvement officer at Time to Change, Joss oversees more than 80 “Young Champions” (mental health campaigners aged 16-25). She’s responsible for everything from organising training workshops to co-ordinating school visits down to booking our train tickets to events. The impact Joss’ work has is huge – she empowers a really large group of young people to go out into the world as voices for and agents of change in their communities. This is such an effective way to tackle the stigma around mental health in our society.
Mental health campaigner; Time to Change ambassador; YoungMinds activist; Evolve peer support facilitator.
I first met Nikki at a Time to Change training day, where as a veteran mental health campaigner she came to talk to us about her experiences and shared her story, which was really powerful. The amount this woman has achieved by the age of just 19 is incredible. She’s spoken to hundreds of young people in schools about mental health, and is regularly interviewed on major media outlets. She volunteers and campaigns with so many organisations including Time to Change, Young Minds and Rethink Mental Illness, and volunteers as a peer supporter with Evolve. Nikki is also training to become a mental health nurse.
Mental health blogger and advocate; creator of #TalkMH; Time to Change Champion.
Hannah is the creator of #TalkMH, a Twitter chat based around mental health that brings so many people together to talk about these issues in a supportive environment. She also runs a popular mental health blog, littlethoughtsblog.com, is a Time to Change Champion, and has written about mental health for media outlets such as the Huffington Post. Hannah has also partnered with her local Mind charity, bringing her mental health writing to an even wider audience. I can’t wait to see where she’ll go next!
Founder of SusCam and the Oxford Mental Health Support Network; mental health campaigner with Rethink Mental Illness; OUSU president-elect.
When Kate had to suspend her university studies for a year due to depression, she became aware of the lack of understanding and clear information and policy around this surprisingly common process. In late 2015, Kate set up SusCam, the official campaign at Oxford University for suspended status students, the majority of whom take time out for welfare or health reasons, especially mental health problems. The campaign has made substantial progress in campaigning for clearer, more transparent and fairer policies, but it’s also created a really supportive community of students who all know what it’s like to suspend. Alongside founding and chairing SusCam, she’s an active mental health campaigner with Rethink Mental Illness. Kate also founded the Oxford Mental Health Support Network, an organisation that publicises mental health support services in Oxford, and brings together campaigners and volunteers in the community. Kate was also recently elected as the Oxford University Student Union President for the year 2017/8, and plans to use her time in the role to among other things continue her work for suspended students and launch a university-wide anti-stigma campaign to help tackle Oxford’s mental health crisis.
Mental health campaigner and blogger; Time to Change Young Champion; Rethink Mental Illness Review Panel member.
Jodie is a fellow Time to Change Young Champion and she’s one of the most wholeheartedly committed and dedicated people I know. Whether she’s sharing her experiences of mental health in schools, organising campaigning events, talking about mental health in the media, or writing her own mental health blogs, Jodie is proof that not all heroes wear capes. She’s also one of the kindest and most generous individuals I know and is always there to listen and offer support to others.
Mental health blogger
Janet was one of the first mental health bloggers I spoke to when I started blogging, and her website is definitely one of my favourites. Janet writes about her experience of Bipolar Disorder, and her posts discuss topics such as self harm, discrimination, medication, self-love and acceptance. Oh, and the illustrations on her blog are amazing. Janet is soon about to begin working towards becoming a mental health nurse and I know she’ll make such a difference to the lives of so many people.
Mental health blogger; communications advisor for OCD Youth; Time to Change champion; fundraiser for Student Minds.
Nicole is one of my favourite mental health bloggers, and she writes brilliantly about mental illness, particularly OCD. She’s doing so much to challenge the stigma and misunderstanding that surrounds the disorder. Nicole is also a Time to Change ambassador, and has recently taken on the role of communications advisor for OCD Youth. It’s so awesome to see how she’s taken her skills as an experienced lifestyle blogger and used them to help others struggling with their mental health.
Mental health advocate, blogger and writer.
Rowana is a blogger and writer who covers topics including mental health, gender and race. Rowena writes a lot about how mental health issues affect women of colour, and her blog is intended to be a resource for black women who want know more about mental health and self care. The intersection between race, gender and mental illness is such an important topic which is definitely not talked about enough, even within the mental health campaigning movement as a whole. Rowana is one advocate who through her writing is starting to change that.
Journalist and author of “Mad Girl”; founder of Mental Health Mates.
Bryony’s bestselling memoir “Mad Girl” has made such a big impact in terms of breaking the silence around OCD. Her honest portrayal of what it’s actually like to have this deeply misunderstood disorder brought awareness of OCD to a much wider audience. To have a book like “Mad Girl” in the book charts at every WHSmith across the country is a massive step forwards. Bryony has also set up Mental Health Mates, a group that connects people with mental health problems by organising walks or runs, and she is currently training to run the London marathon for Heads Together.
Presenter and leading Youtuber
I first came across Grace when watching her BBC Three documentary, “Clean Eating’s Dirty Secrets”, which challenged many of the claims of clean eating gurus on the internet. Grace is a vocal advocate for body positivity and has used her platform as a major fashion and beauty blogger/vlogger to speak out about mental health issues, including depression and other personal battles. Grace often describes herself as “the internet’s big sister”, and it would be hard to find a better role model for young girls today.
Illustrator and author of “It’s All Absolutely Fine”
Ruby’s hugely popular tumblr account, “rubyetc”, conveys what it’s like to live with a mental illness such as depression, and she manages to do this in a way that is both honest and raw yet also often quite funny. Ruby’s illustrations are so powerful because they take subjects that people are often afraid to talk about and address them in an accessible, relatable way. Ruby’s artwork has been compiled into a book, “It’s All Absolutely Fine”, which I’d really recommend!
Arts Sisterhood provide affordable Art Therapy classes to Women and Female-Identifying people across the UK.
Arts sisterhood UK is an incredible non-profit that provides low-cost art therapy classes for women and female-identifying people. The organisation provides much needed support, particularly to those with mental health problems the NHS is unable to adequately help. Ali Strick’s own experience of mental illness made her realise the shortcoming in NHS mental health care, which inspired her to set up Arts Sisterhood UK. Classes cost £3 each and are hugely popular. Each session has a theme, such as relationships or self esteem, and provides a supportive environment in which to share how you’re feeling and express that through drawing or painting. Ali and the women at Arts Sisterhood are doing such important work, and in a period where the amount of funding given to NHS mental health services is far too low, groups like this are more vital than ever.