Jonny Benjamin Praises Prince William and Kate’s ‘Kindness And Support’ In Ending The Stigma Around Mental Health

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Jonny Benjamin Praises Prince William and Kate's 'Kindness And Support' In Ending The Stigma Around Mental Health

Mental health campaigner Jonny
Benjamin is known for his book and documentary film, The Stranger on
the Bridge, which aims to end the stigma around talking about mental health,
suicidal thoughts and schizoaffective disorder.

When his campaign to find the
man who stopped him from taking his own life went viral, Jonny became a
spearhead in lifting the lid on mental health struggles.

“Prince William has been
amazing, he’s been so supportive and Catherine too,” he shared. “They
are so supportive and kind, they really care about mental health. Neil
[Laybourn] and I were really lucky to have a meeting with him back in 2016.

“We just sat down with
them, and saw how passionate they were and are about mental health and
suicide prevention and how much they want to do. Prince William has just been
really incredibly supportive. So we’re really, really grateful.”

Prince William and Kate with Jonny and Neil back in 2016

Prince William and Kate with Jonny and Neil back in 2016

Over the years, there’s no
denying how to open Prince William and Kate have been surrounding the conversation
about mental health and their aim to destigmatize it.

The royals met with Jonny and
Neil in 2016, a year before the author was awarded an MBE for his services to
mental health. “I was so nervous and I think Neil was nervous too,”
recalled Jonny. “But it was so relaxed and informal. When we shook their
hands, they were like, ‘Just call us by our names.’ I didn’t know how to
address them.”

Once the cameras had left,
Jonny revealed how “it just felt like talking to friends”. He said:
“They were so relaxed and open. Again, just really passionate about mental
health. With William, it was particularly with men and Catherine with young
people.

“It feels like one of
their life’s missions in their career is really around mental health and
suicide prevention, which is great and which is what is needed.”

Asked if the royal couple are
doing enough, Jonny said: “Yes, it’s so important. It’s so needed
particularly with the pandemic and the lockdowns and with everything that’s
going on in the world at the moment.

“There’s a lot of people
struggling. We need these sort of role models and there are loads of them now,
which is amazing.” Jonny believes that the country has come a long way to
end discrimination against mental health.

“I think it’s amazing
that in just the last two years, we’ve come such a long way, particularly in
the UK,” he added. “We’ve come such a long way because of the number
of people that are sharing and opening up.”

The author received his MBE in 2017

The author received his MBE in 2017

In 2008, Jonny almost took his
own life when he was 20 years old. He found himself standing on the edge of
Waterloo Bridge in London, prepared to jump. A stranger named ‘Mike’, whose
actual name is Neil Laybourn, stopped to talk to him and convinced him to climb
back to safety.

Speaking about the beginning
of his journey, Jonny shared: “I guess it started when I was really young.
My parents took me to a psychologist when I was five when we knew that
something maybe wasn’t quite right.”  

He added: “At school, I
had depression, but I didn’t know it was depression at the time. I tried to get
help but I couldn’t really get the help that I needed. So I just sort of tried
to push it away, tried to pretend it wasn’t there.”

It wasn’t until Jonny went to
university that things became even more serious. “When I was 20, I was put
into a hospital and I was diagnosed with something called schizoaffective
disorder which is like schizophrenia and bipolar,” he explained. “I
felt like that was the end for me when I got that diagnosis.

“I ran away from the
hospital and ended up on the edge of a bridge. I was in a horrendous place, but
thankfully, there was this stranger that was walking past and he came and stood
next to me and started to have this conversation with me.”

The Book of Hope, £10.99, Amazon

The Book of Hope, £10.99, Amazon

On building his trust with
Neil, Jonny explained: “There was just something about this guy that was
really kind, calm and positive. I started to build this trust with him and he
eventually convinced me to come off the edge.

“We were going to go for
a coffee, but we didn’t get the chance because someone called the police and I
got taken away and the stranger had to go the other way. That was the start of
a really long journey to finally start talking, getting therapy and taking
medication.”

Jonny then went on a mission
to find this stranger with a viral campaign – the pair found each other on
Facebook and their reunion was captured in their Channel 4 documentary.

After his search to find Neil
came to an end, the two men formed an unbreakable bond and have since set up a
charity called Beyond, have run marathons and speak to audiences across
the world.

“The journey still
continues. We work together, we give talks, we share our stories and set up the
charity, Beyond, which is a youth mental health charity. I’ve also written a
couple of books as well since then,” Jonny added.

“I mean my own mental
health is not finished, it’s ongoing. I’ve had a few relapses and it has been
difficult. It’s really difficult but I’m in a different place today, I talk and
I’m very open about it. I’ve got amazing support.”

Jonny is known for his book and documentary film The Stranger on the Bridge

Jonny is known for his book and documentary film The Stranger on the Bridge

Jonny has teamed up with Britt
Pflüger for the release of his second book, The Book of Hope: 101 Voices
on Overcoming Adversity. In this book, he brings together a range of
voices to speak to the spectrum of our experiences of mental health and the
power of speaking up and seeking help.

“I wanted to put
something together in a book where different people, from all walks of life,
share their stories on how they’ve overcome adversity and found hope again. I
think particularly with the pandemic, everything that’s happening in the world
right now, people need that hope and inspiration.

“For me it was really
important to get a variety of people because not everyone can relate to my
story. I wanted to get people from all around the world, from different
cultures and backgrounds to share how they have overcome adversity. So that
whoever’s reading it can get something at least from one person if not more
people.”

 

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Mr Priceless
A young person with a passion for success and excellence to develop a professional career that encourages empowerment in the overall development of a person which is achieved through hard work. A Journalist with facts and a difference; standing by the truth all the time with interests in Science & Technology, Health, Celebrities' Lifestyle, Crimes, Education and Career Improvement.

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