Could you be one of our mental health Ambassadors?

One of the main aims of LionHeart's original mental health programme, the John O'Halloran Initiative, was to help raise awareness and start conversations about mental health in the workplace and at property sector events. 

As part of this, LionHeart recruited a small number of 'ambassadors' to help us drive forward the mental health awareness message.
Our mental health ambassadors are RICS professionals who have experience of mental ill health either personally or through a close relative or friend. They have all agreed to bravely share their experiences in the hope it will break down the stigma often attached to mental health issues, and maybe encourage others to speak out or seek support if they need it.

From that original small group, our ambassador programme grew and grew as more professionals responded to the message and wanted to get involved. They have been instrumental in starting so many conversations about mental health and demonstrating to their peers that it's ok to ask for help.

Scroll down to view a video of some of our ambassadors sharing their stories, or click on their photos to find out more about each one.

If you would like to be a LionHeart ambassador or would like to find out more about the role, please email our Wellbeing Projects Development Lead Jo Grant:
kelly allen

Kelly Allen


Kelly Allen started as a graduate surveyor at Colliers International in 2016 and then became a building surveyor at Faithorn Farrell Timms in 2017.
Kelly has a history of mental health struggles including diagnosed PTSD, Anxiety and Depression.


During her first year post-graduation, she found herself unwell and struggling with ‘imposter syndrome’, depression and increased anxiety.


"At the time, I did not want my illness to jeopardise any potential professional progression and I therefore hid my struggles and gained private help.

I learned about Lionheart and their mission recently and I strongly believe that I would have benefitted from the services offered had I have been aware at the time. I therefore feel passionately about raising awareness for other professionals who may be suffering in silence with workplace stress or mental health illness. Becoming an ambassador for Lionheart has afforded me this privilege to help."

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Derek Carter


Derek has extensive UK, international and pan-European real estate experience working within property companies and private equity to acquire assets, form business plans, re-position, arrange funding, structure Joint Ventures, appoint professional teams and also working within banks to originate, underwrite, structure, manage and close transactions. 

At present, he is managing the exit and wind-down of GE Capital Real Estate involving the disposal of equity assets, loans and
 liquidations on an international basis. 

Derek experienced a series of life events where, he says, one thing led to another. He contacted LionHeart initially with one question he needed advice on, and subsequently found support in a number of different areas.


He says: "It is a great benefit to know that somebody is there but that they are also part of an experienced team that can offer help, assistance and guidance for the situations we can find ourselves in. Knowing how difficult it can be to seek support is one reason why I wish to make others aware of the positive help they can find at any time through LionHeart."


Natasha Collins


Natasha started as a graduate surveyor in 2010 and worked in practice for 6 years. During that time she gained her MSc in Surveying through the University of Reading and went on to become chartered in 2015.

In 2016 Natasha started NC Real Estate, where she specialises in asset management, and is also a lecturer with the University College of Estate Management, teaching property management at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Working with LionHeart, Natasha devised and now delivers our Supercharge Your Wellbeing workshop, which is specially aimed at helping APC candidates through what is potentially a very stressful time.

Natasha says: "I am excited to be an ambassador because I feel strongly that mental health should be a normal discussion point. 

"As someone who has her ups and downs with mental health (and still does to this day) I feel now that just owning who I am works best and I feel passionately about sharing my experiences and helping others to feel confident in their mental health and wellbeing too."


Overwhelm - and overcoming it


James Crawford


James Crawford started his career in South Africa in 1985 before moving to the City in London to work for the likes of Weatherall Green & Smith, Jones Lang Wootton and then several years at Savills, where he specialised in multi-million pound commercial acquisitions and sales.

He developed severe depression, which he describes “the most desperate period I have ever experienced”, and says: “After a relatively high-profile career in the City I went from being a highly paid investment agent to nothing in a matter of months. Simply existing was the goal.”

He became an ambassador to “highlight the risk we all run in our frantic lives”, and says he hopes sharing his story may encourage other professionals to seek help before they hit rock bottom. 

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Jordanne started with Savills in September 2016 in her first role in the property and construction industry as a Level 3 Apprentice studying with University College of Estate Management.

Since then, Jordanne has progressed to Level 6 with Birmingham City University. In her role at Savills, she delivers a variety building & project consultancy services to a range of commercial and industrial client throughout the UK.

She says: "LionHeart is an organisation that was there for me just when I needed them most, and I wanted to help raise awareness about the fantastic range of services and support they offer.

"I also feel that, although my generation has been encouraged to be more open and speak more freely about mental health issues, it is still a huge barrier that many struggle to overcome and I would like to help those struggling in any way I can."



Jordanne - My experience of counselling


Gemma Foster


Gemma began her career with Countrywide in an administrative role and by studying alongside at University College of Estate Management, became an Associate of the RICS five years later. Having had personal experience of anxiety and depression, Gemma is keen to normalise conversation surrounding mental health and wellbeing.

She says: “I think it’s important that it becomes normal to talk to your employer and colleagues when you’re struggling - that’s why I decided to become an ambassador for LionHeart to show people it's ok to not be ok sometimes.”


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Owen Gower


Owen is a Sector Commercial Manager for VINCI Facilities. He was a 2014 winner of the RICS Matrics Young Surveyor of the Year. He became one of LionHeart’s mental health ambassadors after speaking out about his own diagnosis of Bipolar disorder, saying: ”In my view, we need to keep exposing people to the facts and truth about mental health to reduce stigma, and create an environment where people can share their mental health concerns without fear of retribution or negative impacts.”




The one about the bipolar surveyor

What is bipolar

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Rebecca Graham


Rebecca started her surveying career at Westley & Huff in 2015, before moving to Savills in 2017 where she became a Chartered Building Surveyor. She started her current role at Ward Howard in 2020.

In her present role, Rebecca produces Homebuyer’s Reports and Building Surveys for domestic clients.

'These last few years have been testing, and I hope by sharing my experiences that I can help normalise discussions about mental health in the surveying profession.

I’ve tuned into LionHeart Webinars recently and have found it reassuring to find other people in the surveying profession who’ve had similar struggles. The Lionheart Ambassadors recognise the importance of allocating time (out of busy work schedules) to discussing all-things mental health and I’m delighted to be part of it.'


Kirsty Harvey


Kirsty is founder/ director of KTD Surveying, a consultancy specialising in commercial landlord/tenant issues. She previously worked for organisations including A S Watson, National Mutual and First Quench as an estate manager, and has over 25 years of experience in the property industry.

Kirsty has first-hand experience of how mental health issues can affect surveyors, and how the culture and environment of the workplace can both contribute to poor mental health - or prevent it.

After the inaugural RICS Diversity and Inclusion Conference she was inspired to speak out about her experiences of dealing with anxiety, stress and depression, and decided to become a LionHeart mental health ambassador to help raise awareness among industry colleagues.

She says: “The more people talk, it becomes less of a stigma. I hope my story makes others realise they are not alone.”


Kirsty's Story: Living with panic attacks 


Jen Hobart


Jennifer spent two and a half years as a graduate surveyor in Milton Keynes before joining Jones Lang LaSalle in 2015. She qualified in June 2017 and does a variety of work including building surveys and contract administration.

Jen has struggled with anxiety since she was a teenager, but desperately tried to ignore it and pretend it wasn’t a problem.

She says: “I eventually decided to face it after I was referred following my first attempt at assessment. I came across a seminar called Supercharge Your Wellbeing by LionHeart, which I believe was the turning point that helped me to achieve my chartership this summer.

“I hope that sharing my experiences with anxiety will help others going through similar situations.”


 "I was told I might not be cut out to be a surveyor"

 Is it really OK not to be OK?

My Furlough and Redundancy Journey


Stuart Howison


After graduating from De Montfort University, Leicester, in 2001, Stuart started his career in Building Surveying with GVA Grimley (now GVA). In 2010, Stuart joined South Wales Fire and Rescue Service where he was responsible for the strategic direction of the planned maintenance to the organisations property portfolio.     

Stuart is now Major Projects Manager at Avon Fire and Rescue Service. He has first hand experience of dealing with anxiety and depression having suffered from both for the past 17 years. Having recently returned to work following a period of leave, Stuart decided to become a LionHeart ambassador. 

He says: "For many years I was afraid to speaking openly about my mental health, given my chosen profession, work environment and industry. I was always afraid of being judged by my peers and colleagues. I feel by becoming an ambassador the stigma associated with mental health can be broken. I hope to encourage colleagues from with our profession that is ok to openly discuss mental health and reassure that with support, it can be positively managed and not hinder career progression within the industry."  


Living with Anxiety and Depression

Lockdown and Mental Health


Subjit Jassy


Subjit has over 25 years experience in the real estate industry including 7 years at Colliers Erdman Lewis, 7 years at Legal and General Investment Management and Invista Real Estate Investment Management, and 9 years at Resolution Property. 

He has managed assets with a value in excess of £1.8bn, managed over £30m of construction projects and completed around £10m of leasing deals, with experience in the retail, leisure, residential and office sectors.

Subjit has a personal interest in wellbeing, practising mindfulness, meditation and yoga and joined the ambassador programme as an extension to his own work in mentoring and coaching. He is also working towards a counselling and life coach qualification in addition to his real estate career.


Steve Lees


Steve gained his status as MRICS in 2001, initially practising in the West Midlands as a valuation surveyor, and is now a Senior Surveying Quality Manager for e.surv, the largest firm of residential surveyors in the UK.

Currently he supports RICS professionally on several working groups but is most proud of his time spent supporting LionHeart and its mental health programme the John O’Halloran Initiative. Outside of work, following Wolverhampton Wanderers and travelling occupy most of his time.

Working in the industry through the tough times of redundancy threats led to some issues with anxiety. At the age of 37 (and still attempting to regularly run and play football…), Steve was diagnosed with cancer of the throat in 2014, but was soon back in work after treatment. He says having had such great support through his issues with anxiety and also through his cancer battle, he would like to give something back by supporting others. 


"Cancer wasn't meant to happen to us"


Caroline Legg


After graduation from Sheffield Hallam University in 1999 Caroline started her career in social housing development, which provided a varied experience base to enable her to complete her RICS APC.  Upon qualification Caroline moved into the field of Residential Survey & Valuation work with Countrywide Surveyors in London, later moving to her home county of Yorkshire, where she continues to work for the same organisation. Latterly, Caroline has been project managing centrally as opposed to field work.

Caroline has first-hand experience of dealing with depression and anxiety after giving birth to her son who had serious health problems. She strongly and passionately believes that if we start the conversations around mental health, the stigma can be broken and the industry, with many people in it, will benefit and be strengthened. 

She says “I feel by being an ambassador I shall be given the opportunity to tell my story which, I am hopeful will provide some reassurance and comfort to individuals and organisations that with support, mental health can be openly discussed and managed with positive outcomes”.


"When the reality of motherhood doesn't go to plan"


Paddy Phillips


Paddy Phillips started his career in London in 2002 in the media industry. He switched in 2005 to a career in Real Estate where he worked for the likes of Farebrother and GVA, where he specialised in advising both tenants and landlords on the leasing, refurbishment and development of their assets. He followed this by working for two tech start-ups.


His first marriage suffered as a result of heavy drinking at the start of his career. He struggled with sobriety and depression for a number of years before finally getting sober. He became an ambassador to highlight the risks and dangers that poor mental health and alcohol abuse can cause in both personal and professional life. He hopes that by sharing his story he may encourage other professionals to seek help before they hit rock bottom as he did.


David Sherborn-Hoare


David Sherborn-Hoare built up a practice with 4 offices and 30+ staff with a turnover of £1.5m after starting out from the spare bedroom of his home. He held a number of honorary positions with the RICS, played rugby, lectured at the Royal Agricultural College and described himself as “the life and soul of the party”.

But a secret lack of confidence in his own abilities drove him to work intensely. His marriage ended acrimoniously and he says: “Eventually one Saturday morning while sitting at my kitchen table I found I could not get up. 

"I had in a literal sense broken down.”

After eventually receiving therapy, he later trained as a psychotherapist himself. He now has a private clinical practice and also advises businesses.

He says: “My advice to any business is to have policies and practices that involved informed psychological support. I promise in your business there will be people like me and others with different but nonetheless affected states of mind.”   

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Andrew Simmonds


Andrew had a background in Finance, sales and complex project management prior to forming a managing agent business with his brother which I grew to become the largest independent agent in the south-west. 

He founded Mcilroy Smith & Co. in 2018 to offer a completely bespoke transparent property management and development consultancy service to clients. In doing so, he created a health and wellbeing policy to support colleagues and to ensure they are valued within the workplace. In 2019, Mcilroy Smith & Co. became part of the Coyne Group, an Asset Management and Development business focussing on senior living developments.

"I decided to become a LionHeart ambassador because I truly believe in the great work that is happening to make Mental Health more widely accepted in the workplace and to beat the drum that nobody really knows what lies behind the smile.  I wanted to bring my own difficult experiences to support others and to help spread the word much further within the surveying profession."


Dave Vernon


Dave started working on building sites at the age of 16 before joining the Royal Navy, where he saw action in the Balkans in the mid 1990s. After leaving the armed forces he returned to the construction industry, went to university and became a member of the RICS in 2009.

He says: “I had a full life riding fast motorbikes, coaching rugby, and delivering very successful projects.

"Then depression hit in 2014, completely out of the blue but for a very specific reason, which had nothing to do with work.”

After seeking help, he says he is now happier than he has ever been but adds: “I now understand that mental illness can strike anybody at any time for any reason - or maybe no reason at all.” 

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Avneet Virdee


 I spent two and half years as a graduate surveyor in Reading before qualifying in November 2017.  In the last six years I have undertaken a variety of work including valuations for taxation, development viability, accounting and secure lending purposes.


As an individual, I have had my own dark times in life and coming out on the other side much stronger, I feel being an ambassador and sharing firsthand experience and helping others will give hope and encourage mental health and other issues to be spoken about within the industry more openly.


I believe, as individuals we all go through moments in life that are ‘up and down’, and we must not brush these emotions under the carpet but instead acknowledge them. APC can be a daunting experience and the industry we are in can be stressful too, therefore as an ambassador I would like to provide support by sharing my own experience with individuals.

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