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A New Digital Platform to Talk About Mental Health

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Head Talks is a new platform that aims to open up the conversation about mental health and get more people talking about their experiences. Head Talks is for everyone. At this time of year, we are surrounded with advice and good intentions; it is a place to turn for others’ experiences and what has helped them.

Head Talks is a not-for-profit venture set up by Oliver Chittenden, a speaker agent of over 15 years, representing many of the world’s most prominent politicians, business leaders and management experts. It was through his network that he has assembled such a variety of people to talk about the mind. Oliver has come through his own struggles with mental health problems and discovered in the course of his work that many outstanding individuals in their fields had shared similar problems.

Oliver says “Really unlikely people started telling me about their own struggles with mental health; from corporate high-flyers I met through work, to extended family, friends and even other parents at the school gate. Every one of them had kept quiet about their battles and it is this silence that we are hoping to break.”

Head Talks is an online platform with short talks aimed at informing, inspiring and engaging those interested in their mental well-being. It features real people speaking from the heart and from their own experience. It is easily accessible and easy to understand.

Through these talks people can gain knowledge and apply practical steps in their own lives to achieve better mental health. They can take away new therapies, disciplines, ideas and perspectives for their own lives and their wider communities.

Among some of the talks on the site are:

  • Founder of YO Sushi! Simon Woodroffe OBE on depression and addiction
  • Cook and food writer, Melissa Hemsley on nourishing food and home cooking
  • Tony Blair’s Ex-spin doctor Alastair Campbell on his period of psychosis and living with depression
  • Tribal Explorer Bruce Parry on the importance of connection in communities
  • Actress Jane Horrocks on the Hoffman Process
  • Hypnotist Paul McKenna on hypnosis as therapy
  • Former hostage and Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt on resilience and mental well-being
  • Author and former headmaster Sir Anthony Seldon on mindfulness in education
  • Former NBA basketball player John Amaechi OBE on steps towards a positive mindset
  • Stanger on the Bridge Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn on true story of suicide and schizophrenia
  • Best-selling author and activist Andrew Solomon on mental illness within LGBT community
  • Author, activist and actress Ruby Wax on her best-selling book and show Frazzled

Head Talks was borne out of Oliver Chittenden’s own personal crisis: Oliver hit the rocks at 27, spent a year “on the run” and ended up being picked up off a street in Sydney and shipped back to a recovery centre in London. After successful treatment, he moved his life to rural France, wrote two books while maintaining his role on the global speaker circuit, got married and had a child. Depression hit again at 37. After a spell in the care of Brene Brown, the expert on vulnerability and mental trauma, Oliver ended up in a Nashville hospital as his kidneys, bladder, prostate and other bodily organs broke down.

He says “People tend to think there is something wrong with them if they feel depressed or anxious, that it’s unique to them and that they should deal with it alone. What they don’t realise is how widespread it is. The reality is that most of us live with a battlefield of some sort going on in our head. We hope Head Talks will give hope to sufferers of mental illness and show that there is light and that it is something that can be overcome and managed.’’

Head Talks doesn’t advocate any one perspective or therapy; it provides a toolbox with the habits and disciplines that have worked for others. Some speakers have a professional background in the mind: psychiatrists, academics, nutritional experts or spiritual teachers. Others are simply sharing what works for them.

Head Talks aims to help kill the stigma surrounding mental ill-health, to focus our attention on the prevention of unhappiness, and promote some of the practical things we can do to maintain our mental well-being.

As Oliver says, “Every week we hear of another study showing mental illness is on the increase: in workplaces, schools, universities and people’s homes. As a society we have got to face up to this growing silent epidemic and create an openness and honesty around it. We need to change the perception that talking about feelings is a sign of weakness.”

As well as providing a platform to air interviews, debates, documentaries, speeches and podcasts, Head Talks will run events and workshops in communities via church halls and schools, supporting these via ticketed events and providing mental health workshops in the business community. Head Talks launches on 16th January 2017 (“Blue Monday”).

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