Friday, 25 February 2022

This month we spoke to Mark Simmonds (Al. 1976-81), a management trainer who has written two books about mental health. He shares his happiest memories of his time at school and a brilliant idea for what to take to a desert island...

When you were at Brighton College, what did you want to be when you ‘grew up’?

I played team sports at the College and probably felt at the time, somewhat hopefully (!), that I might have been good enough to make a living as either a professional cricketer or rugby player. Other than that, we were having too much fun to be thinking too far ahead!

Tell us about yourself now you've grown up.

59 years old (ouch!). Married to Mel with three grown-up children, Will (27), Emily (25), and Jack (23). Two adorable pets, Peggy, a mad Hungarian Vizsla, and Maisie, a slightly neurotic cat. I live in a sleepy village in leafy Bucks, called Stewkley which boasts the longest high street in the UK!

What about your life now would most surprise your Brighton College teachers?

Probably the fact that I am an author of two books and that they are both based on my own experiences of mental ill-health!

What are your favourite memories of your time at school?

I was part of a wonderful friendship group, who were mainly (but not exclusively) gifted sports players. We really enjoyed one another’s company and I am delighted to say that one silver lining from the pandemic is that we are all reunited once again. And guess what? Nobody has changed one little bit!!

What advice would you give to your school-age self?

Three things: 1) As far as humanly possible, enjoy the moment and don’t spend too long wishing for the future. It probably won’t end up being anything you predicted; 2) Find time for others and listen more than you talk; 3) Don’t take either your mental or physical health for granted. Without either of those, not a lot is possible.

What do you do as a career?

I struck lucky! By the time I had reached 30 I found myself in a fabulous career working as a management trainer, teaching marketing, innovation and creativity to managers from some of the world’s largest companies. These have included Unilever, HSBC, Tesco, GlaxoSmithKline, Philips and the Red Cross.

My recent ‘side hustle’ has been in the area of mental health and I have written two books – Breakdown and Repair and Beat Stress at Work which was published in March this year ( I intend to spend more and more of my time delivering talks and running workshops in the area of mental health and wellbeing.

What does your work involve?

I design and deliver workshops, both face-to-face and virtual, and run sessions lasting anywhere from 2 hours to two days. During my career, I have run workshops in more than 30 countries across the globe. It’s been very rewarding and a lot of fun!

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

At one point in my career, I lost a bit of perspective, failing (miserably!) to achieve a proper work/life balance. I experienced extreme mental distress as a result and this led to a mental breakdown. In hindsight, I view this time as somewhat of a breakthrough.

What are you most proud of?

Personally, that my wife and I have raised three great kids whom we are very proud of. They are hard-working, considerate, and enjoy making fun of their parents!! Professionally, that I made a brave move in my late twenties and found a career that suited my core personality down to the ground.

What are the three objects you would take with you to a desert island?

  • A tennis ball!!
  • A physical photo album, crammed full of photos from the past
  • A solar-powered Kindle loaded with 1000 books!

How would you like to be remembered?

Tricky one! And still, a lot of work to be done here! I think that I would like to be remembered as the person who was always there for those people who had mental health struggles.

Mark's latest book Beat Stress at Work is available from 3rd March 2022.

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