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Ambassadors
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 set out to recruit some 'ambassadors' to help us drive forward the mental health awareness message.
 
Our mental health ambassadors are all 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:
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Kelly Allen

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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 struggled with ‘imposter syndrome’, depression and increased anxiety.

She says: "At the time, I didn't want my illness to jeopardise any potential professional progression and therefore hid my struggles and gained private help.

"I learned about LionHeart and their mission recently and strongly believe I would have benefitted from their services had I 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."

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Derek Carter

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Derek has extensive UK, international and pan-European real estate experience working within property companies and private equity as well as the banking world.  

He experienced a series of life events where, he says, one thing led to another. After contacting LionHeart for initial advice, he found support for his wellbeing in several 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."

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Natasha Collins

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Natasha started as a graduate surveyor in 2010 and worked in practice for 6 years. During that time she gained her MSc in Surveying and became chartered in 2015, founding her asset management company NC Real Estate in 2016. She is also a lecturer with the University College of Estate Management.

After becoming ill the first time she took her APC, Natasha was supported by LionHeart and later went on to help devise and deliver our very first Supercharge Your Wellbeing workshop - the first of many wellbeing subjects we now offer training in.

Natasha says: "I feel strongly that mental health should be a normal discussion point. 

"As someone who has her ups and downs with mental health I feel passionately about sharing my experiences and helping others to feel confident in their mental health and wellbeing too."


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Overwhelm - and overcoming it

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James Crawford

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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 hopes sharing his story may encourage other professionals to seek help before they hit rock bottom. 

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Jordanne

Dunn

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Jordanne started with Savills in September 2016 in her first role in the property and construction industry as an apprentice studying with University College of Estate Management.

Since then she has continued to progress and now delivers building and project consultancy services to commercial and industrial clients throughout the UK.

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

"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 in any way I can."

 

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Jordanne - My experience of counselling

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Gemma Foster

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Gemma began her career with Countrywide in an administrative role, studying alongside her job with the University College of Estate Management, before becoming an Associate of the RICS.

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

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Owen has a range of facilities management experience, working in the university sector and 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.”

 

 

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The one about the bipolar surveyor

What is bipolar

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Rebecca Graham

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Rebecca started her surveying career in 2015, moving to Savills in 2017 where she became a chartered building surveyor. She now works to produce Homebuyer’s Reports and Building Surveys for domestic clients.

She says: "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.

"It is 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."

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Kirsty Harvey

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

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 became 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.”



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Kirsty's Story: Living with panic attacks 


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Jen Hobart

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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 that summer.

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


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 "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


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Stuart Howison

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After graduating from De Montfort University, Leicester, in 2001, Stuart started his career in Building Surveying with GVA Grimley (now GVA). Moving into project management, he has several years experience within fire and rescue services in Wales and England.     

He has first hand experience of dealing with anxiety and depression having suffered from both for several years. 

He says: "For many years I was afraid to speak 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, and hope to encourage colleagues from within our profession to openly discuss mental health and reassure that, with support, it can be positively managed and not hinder career progression."  


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Living with Anxiety and Depression

Lockdown and Mental Health

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Subjit Jassy

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In his 25-year-plus career in real estate, Subjit 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.

He 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.

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Steve Lees

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Steve gained his status as MRICS in 2001, initially practising in the West Midlands as a valuation surveyor, before becoming a Senior Surveying Quality Manager for e.surv.

He has supported RICS professionally on several working groups but is most proud of his time spent supporting LionHeart and its work in improving mental health within the profession.  

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.

Having benefitted from good support through his issues with anxiety and also through his cancer battle, he says he hopes to give something back by supporting others. 


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"Cancer wasn't meant to happen to us"


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Caroline Legg

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After graduating from Sheffield Hallam University in 1999 Caroline started her career in social housing development and undertook her RICS APC. Upon qualification Caroline went into residential survey and valuation work with Countrywide, later moving into project management.  

Caroline has first-hand experience of depression and anxiety after giving birth to her son who had serious health problems. She strongly believes that starting conversations around mental health helps to break stigma, and in doing so, the property industry and its people are strengthened. 

She says: “I feel being an ambassador gives me 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."


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


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Paddy Phillips

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Paddy Phillips started out in the media industry in London in 2002, switching to a career in real estate in 2005, working 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 says 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.

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David Sherborn-Hoare

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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, saying that every single business will have people affected by mental health issues so if is vital to have informed policies and practices in place. 

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Dave Vernon

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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

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Avneet spent two and half years as a graduate surveyor in Reading before qualifying in November 2017. Her career has involved a variety of work including valuations for taxation, development viability, accounting and secure lending purposes.

She says: "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 first hand experience will give hope and encourage mental health and other issues to be spoken about within the industry more openly.

"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, especially as the industry we are in can be stressful." 

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Elise  Thompson

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Elise Thompson is a commercial property surveyor, undertaking financial viability assessments for public sector clients. She is also passionate about helping APC candidates on their journeys to becoming chartered by acting as an RICS mentor and counsellor and consultant for training group Property Elite. Elise’s drive to help others stems from her own APC journey, which she says was not as smooth sailing as she would have hoped for - but ultimately made her a better surveyor and companion to those on the same path.

She says: “I am a firm advocate for mental health awareness being equal to physical health: I want to encourage neurodiversity in the surveying profession and help empower the next generation of surveyors to change the built environment for the better.”


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