Open Minds Alliance CIC is a not-for-profit organisation formed to develop and deliver training packages for a range of sectors. In 2013 we joined forces with Stand to Reason, the workplace mental health charity who have delivered a number of successful workplace programmes that have had a significant measurable impact on reducing sickness and absence and improving productivity.


Gavin Peake-Jones, Chief Executive

Gavin has worked at a senior level in large multi-national organisations for the past 12 years. He has particular expertise in developing and implementing strategy and facilitating organisational change. He was awarded a Fellowship by the trustees of the Royal Society of Art Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) following a pioneering collaboration involving Marks and Spencer, Ford, Business in the Community, The Environment Agency and
Prior to starting Open Minds Alliance CIC, Gavin founded two successful businesses and one social enterprise, which provide strategic advice to Government, NHS, Philanthropists and Non-Governmental Organisations to improve access to critical services and increase the impact of philanthropic giving.

Gavin has extensive experience of designing and delivering programmes that are delivered by in-house teams and has designed and delivered national programmes on workplace mental health in the Public and Private Sector. He works closely with occupational health professionals and clinicians to raise awareness of mental health issues, increase resilience and provide support to people experiencing emotional distress. Gavin has been involved in implementing new healthcare services, integrating statutory and third sector healthcare provision and has also developed a national framework of healthcare training programmes with the aim of improving the quality and consistency of clinician education. He is a visiting lecturer at the University of Cardiff Medical School.

Dr Alys Cole-King MB, BCh, DGM, MSc, FRCPsych, Clinical Director

Alys Cole-King is a Consultant Liason Psychiatrist who maintains a clinical and public health role within the NHS. She works nationally with Royal Colleges, voluntary bodies, academics, and experts by experience to raise awareness of suicide and self-harm. She promotes the need for compassion, collaboration, improved governance and promotes a common language to ensure an improved and more integrated response to people at risk of suicide. A contributor to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Suicide and Self-harm Prevention, Alys is also on the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Mental Health Training Advisory Group, and has contributed to their curriculum. Alys leads international campaigns via social media and works with the media to ensure a compassionate and safe approach to suicide prevention.

As Connecting with People Clinical Director, Alys led the development of Connecting with People’s Suicide Assessment Framework E-Tool (SAFETool). This approach is based on more than 20 years clinical experience, a thorough review of published evidence and a full time research project using psychological autopsy technique to investigate factors relating to episodes of self-harm or suicide attempts. Alys is a primary author of a number of papers, book chapters, webinars, podcasts, blogs and self-help resources on suicide and self-harm prevention, Alys has also contributed to the RCGP e-learning module on suicide prevention and delivered a BMJ Masterclass Webinar on suicide mitigation. Alys sits on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Compassionate Health Care, is a reviewer for several journals and sits on the international Expert Reference group advising Griffiths University academics, a WHO Collaborating Centre on responding to professionals who have experienced the suicide of a patient.

Siân Peake-Jones MA MEID, Executive Director

Sian has 18 years experience in the fields of economic, community and organisational development. She started her career in local government working on a range of development, research and internal consultancy projects eventually moving into mainstream consultancy. Prior to establishing Open Minds, Sian was Director at the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), an independent think tank and consultancy. Sian has extensive experience of policy and strategic projects as well as an authentic understanding of what is happening with real people in communities through her community based work. Her particular areas of expertise are unemployment and community development. She also serves as a Neighbourhood Renewal Advisor for the Department of Communities and Local Government and is an Associate of the Centre for Urban and Regional Futures at Salford University.

Bob Mann, Executive Director

Bob has over 20 years experience in various areas of the IT industry including software engineering, consulting and management and has worked for companies ranging from small start-ups to multinationals.
He has designed and implemented systems ranging from e-learning software for nurses to industrial control and monitoring solutions for Shell and Courtaulds, has led development teams for IBM and has provided consultancy services for a number of organisations including The Prudential, Royal Mail and Chase Manhattan Bank.

Geoff McDonald

Geoff’s background in teaching, HR, marketing, communications and sustainability is considerable. During his 25 years with Unilever (a global corporation with a turnover of £50 billion, 170,000 employees in 90 countries around the world), his experience has been truly global working across Africa Middle-East and Turkey, Australasia and Asia, Europe and the Americas.
His HR experience has spanned leadership and talent development, organization change, capability development, with particular reference to marketing, and business transformation with purpose at its core. Geoff lead ground breaking work where the HR function has played a central role in transforming Unilever’s business model with purpose at its core. His innovative approach to addressing the issue of stigma associated with depression and anxiety within Unilever was ground breaking within a large global multi-national Organization.
Geoff is an inspiring public speaker who has spoken at Cambridge, Oxford, Warwick Universities as well as Corporate events across Australia, Europe, Japan, North America, Turkey and Eastern Europe. He has participated in a number of BBC programmes and campaigns regards this subject, as well as writing of articles for Huffington Post, FT and HR related journals.
Geoff is married with two girls and loves the outdoors, he is a passionate cyclist and swimmer and has completed a number of ultra cycling events both on and off road.

Keith Waters, Associate Trainer

Keith has over 25 years of clinical experience in self-harm and suicide prevention work. He is one of the lead trainers for Connecting with People and has contributed to the development of the programmes over a number of years.
He currently divides his time between Connecting with People and a portfolio of Healthcare related roles including: Clinical Director for Self Harm and Suicide Prevention, Centre for Research and Development, Derbyshire Health Care NHS Foundation Trust; Consultant Trainer for STORM; Developed and delivers Suicide Awareness Partnership Training (SAPT); Clinical Advisor for Suicide Prevention; East Midlands; 111 service mental health clinical advisor; Clinical Advisor to Sheffield CCG and Research lead for Derby on the multicentre monitoring study of self-harm with Manchester and Oxford Universities.
Keith’s regularly contributes to journals and is an active participant in the Psychiatric Liaison Accreditation Network and National Suicide Prevention Alliance. In 2013, He was awarded an Honorary Research Fellowship with the Derbyshire Health Care Foundation Trust’s Research Centre.
One of Keith’s last roles in the NHS was as the Suicide Prevention Manager, working across the East Midlands NHS. In this role he was able to influence and deliver the National Strategy on Suicide Prevention.

Nick Barnes, Associate Trainer

Nick brings a wealth of experience to Connecting with People as an experienced trainer and a pioneer in promoting suicide awareness. Suicide prevention training has been a particular passion in Nick’s professional life for many years. He has been involved in suicide prevention initiatives around the world,
Nick has the capability to deliver a range of suicide prevention programmes. He is a Consultant Trainer in Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) and Safe Talk®, He has also developed the Understanding Suicide (USI) one day programme, which Nick developed as founder and CEO of Suicide Safer London Community Interest Company.
Nick has trained over 4000 people through suicide prevention programmes, including: veterans, police, social workers, teachers, domestic abuse practitioners and many other specialist vocations, He is widely accredited for his experience with suicide prevention training and has worked with colleagues internationally to develop bespoke training solutions for various specialist groups.

In addition to his suicide prevention work, Nick is an experienced social welfare law specialist and training consultant, having worked with national advice agencies over many years in the fields of housing, health and social care. In his early career Nick built a track record of successful outcomes working with people in acute need, developing a reputation as a tenacious caseworker, working with integrity and passion. Today Nick retains his practice in social welfare law to continuously enhance both forensic subject knowledge and training outcomes.

Nick works with both local and national charities, housing associations and local authorities, to develop and deliver training programmes and initiatives, in a wide range of subjects.

Andrea Woodside, Associate Trainer

Andrea brings a wealth of experience in workplace wellbeing to Connecting with People. After a career in public health, she started working in the field of organisational wellbeing in 1999. She has worked with a range of organisations across the public, private and third sectors.

Andrea’s areas of specialism are tackling mental health stigma in the workplace, supporting employees on their return to work after a period of mental distress and helping individuals to build personal resilience through workshops and coaching.
Andrea is a member of the UK Employee Assistance Programme Professionals Association, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy’s Workplace Division, the UK Faculty of Public Health and a panellist on the Public Mental Health Special Interest Group in conjunction with Dame Carol Black, National Director for Mental Health, to improve workplace health legislation and practice.  As a Trustee of Mind England & Wales, Andrea is also a media spokesperson for a range of national mental health charities and is often called upon to discuss mental health in the workplace on radio and in print.
Andrea is a qualified Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) instructor and delivers this internationally recognised programme to employers of all sizes.

Sharon Scottorn RMN, Associate Trainer

Sharon has had an extensive career in management, clinical practice and training spanning over 35 years. Working in the NHS and HM Prison Service, Sharon has gained vast experience working with self harm and extremely disturbed people in both the NHS and forensic settings.
Sharon was employed by HM Prison Service in the position of Safer Custody and Suicide Prevention Advisor for the West Midlands Prisons and was part of the team which rolled out the new suicide prevention procedures to prisons nationally. This included training prison and healthcare staff in self harm mitigation and mental health awareness.
Sharon left the Prison Service in 2010 to focus on providing training and consultancy in health and social care, delivering training in mental health awareness and self harm mitigation to the NHS, Criminal Justice Services and Voluntary Sector across the country.
In addition to her role as a Connecting with People Trainer, Sharon is a Consultant Trainer for STORM Skills Training CIC. Sharon continues to work part time for Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in the post of Veteran Liaison Lead Nurse, developing services for forces veterans with mental health problems. Sharon also works for the Ministry of Justice as a Specialist Member on Mental Health Review Tribunals.

Rachael Robins, Associate Trainer

With a varied 13 year career in nursing for the NHS in North Wales, Rachael began with a strong foundation in clinical practice in both inpatient and community services, for adults with learning disabilities and mental health problems
More recently, Rachael has been instrumental in implementing through training and facilitation, several Welsh Government initiatives to improve patient safety and quality of care. Recognising a need to further influence workforce wellbeing, Rachael has created and is currently delivering bespoke workshops to improve wellbeing and team vitality.
Rachael became a Connecting with People trainer because of values and beliefs she wants to embody; those of compassion and de-stigmatisation as drivers for suicide mitigation. Rachael delivered training in the NHS and the higher education sector.

We have worked with a range of organisations including:

  • Deloitte
  • Goldman Sachs
  • KPMG
  • Herbert Smith
  • Legal & General
  • RBS
  • Watson, Farley & Williams
  • Simmons & Simmons
  • TK Maxx
  • Ernst & Young
  • Serco
  • accenture
  • FSA
  • Office of Fair Trading
  • rethink
  • HBOS
  • Weil
  • Citi
  • JP Morgan Cazenove
  • Credit Suisse
  • Department for Work and Pensions
  • K & L Gates
  • Ultrasis
  • NHS
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists
  • Royal College of General Practitioners
  • British Medical Journal
  • Macmillan Cancer Support