AXA PPP healthcare takes bold new stride with launch of mental health initiative: Headstrong

13 May 2019

"New mental health initiative designed to help close the gap between mental and physical health"

Leading health insurance provider, AXA PPP healthcare, is today launching Headstrong – a new mental health initiative designed to help close the gap between mental and physical health literacy and acceptance.


Headstrong represents the brand’s commitment to promoting a ‘whole health’ approach, raising awareness around the parity between mental and physical health and the need to see them as one. 

AXA PPP healthcare CEO, Tracy Garrad, said of the initiative: “We’re delighted to be launching Headstrong this week. We see it as a statement of intent and the first step in an important direction. Mental illness and wellness has become a critical health fight for the UK. Headstrong is a stake in the ground for how we hope to evolve the national conversation around mental health by approaching our mental wellbeing as we would our physical health.”

One in four adults in the UK experience mental health illnesses each year,1 with 50% of adults confirming they have had a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life2 and almost 30% experiencing thoughts around self-harm and suicide.1 Despite the significant strides taken to shift these numbers, as a nation, we remain more comfortable, literate and embracing of physical fitness than mental fitness with one in every two people stating they are not comfortable talking about their mental health.3  The physical health and fitness conversation has evolved to create one of the fastest growing industries globally whereas mental health remains ‘taboo’.

Dr Mark Winwood, Director of Psychological Services at AXA PPP healthcare, added: “Despite the attitudinal shifts around mental health we still have a long way to go when it comes to normalising the topic. Mental health is often excluded from regular conversation where physical health is a common topic. We talk about going to the gym, going for a run or attending an exercise class with pride, but as a society are reluctant to discuss how we keep our minds healthy, let alone how we approach mental illness.”

Working in partnership with former rugby player and now health and wellness guru Richie Norton, founder of The Strength Temple, Headstrong represents a ‘complete health’ ethos, brought to life with a series of accessible tools and approaches available to all. Richie’s Headstrong content aims to improve wellbeing, balancing physical and mental fitness with equal importance and highlighting how simple and crucial the connection between the two is. 

Known for his open and very personal struggle with mental health challenges following the end of his professional sporting career, today Richie embodies the essential balance between mental and physical health. His complex journey battling compromised health while outwardly in peak condition prompted his exploration of a route between the physical and the mental – teaching and practicing meditation, mindfulness and low-impact, mind-led exercise to achieve complete health.

Richie’s partnership with AXA in building the Headstrong initiative forms a collective vision for the content as a motivational and empowering force to embolden people, irrespective of fitness level, to embrace a complete approach to their health – mental and physical.

He said: “Physical and mental health are two parts of one whole. Our mental wellbeing is so crucial to how we navigate life and the inevitable challenges we all face, but few of us approach mental fitness in the same way we do diet or exercise. The mental assault course that is daily life is not categorised in the same way tough-MUDder or boot camp might be, neither is the way we approach mental health or how we celebrate the victories that come with achievement in that space. 

“Working with AXA on Headstrong is incredibly important work for me, giving people the tools to help themselves at their own pace and on their own terms as part of a single mental and physical health approach. A healthy body is lost without a healthy mind and vice versa. We’re aiming to change the nation’s mindset around health, getting them talking about and interacting with mental and physical health as a complete concept.”

Headstrong launches in Mental Health Awareness Week from 13th May 2019 and will run throughout the year with launches, events, partnerships and innovation to come. To access the video series, please visit: as the first step in your complete health journey.