‘In 2014 I had a breakdown.’
‘I tried to kill myself.’
Polly, 27, from London is one of many mental health stories that Bryony Gordon, founder and organiser of Mental Health Mates, hears.
‘1 in 4 of us will experience mental illness every year. That’s a lot of people,’ Gordon says.
And the statistics are especially worrying among LGBTI people.
A recent study on the link between sexuality and mental health found LGBTI individuals had a 2.47 times higher lifetime risk than heterosexuals for suicide attempts, about twice as likely to experience depression over a twelve-month period and approximately 1.5 times as likely to experience anxiety disorders.
Possible explanations for the higher rates of mental health problems are varied, such as mistreatment, stigmatization, prejudice, stress during concealment of identity and discrimination.
That’s why Gordon decided to create Mental Health Mates back in February this year.
‘I suffer from depression and OCD and wondered why people like me so often had to suffer alone, in silence,’ she said.
As the group grew, the resolve to help more and more people did too.
Then, during a conversation with her friend Jonny, a mental health campaigner and now co-host of the group, she decided to create an LGBTI edition of Mental Health Mates.
Launching this Wednesday, the picnic aims to provide a safe space for LGBTI people with mental health issues to express themselves in a positive, professional and accepting space.
Mental Health Mates is based in the UK, with similar groups in Leeds, Newcastle, Southampton and Edinburgh, and plans to expand further.
‘I think the most important thing to reiterate is that everyone seems normal – and that’s because it is normal to feel weird,’ says Gordon.
‘It’s really empowering to see that you’re not a freak, that people who look like you and me can all feel the same way.’