Mental Health Campaigners
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Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn are mental health campaigners brought together one fateful day when Jonny, having been diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression, walked out onto Waterloo Bridge with the intention of killing himself. Neil persuaded Jonny not to go through with it, but shortly after saving his life, the two were separated. A Twitter campaign six years later saw an emotional reunion and the start of a drive to raise awareness of mental health issues in society and the workplace.
Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn are mental health campaigners who first met when Neil talked Jonny out of taking his own life. They went on to establish the mental health charity Beyond, and together they recount a touching, gripping story that would go on to change their lives, as well as public perceptions of mental illness.
Diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression, Jonny walked out onto Waterloo Bridge in London with the intention of killing himself. Witnessing this Neil approached, jumped on to the edge of the bridge, and persuaded Jonny not to go through with it. Neil’s intervention saved his life but the two were quickly separated when police arrived and took Jonny to be sectioned.
Six years after the incident Jonny launched a Twitter campaign to find and thank the man that had prevented him from taking his own life. It inspired global news coverage, reaching over 300 million people and successfully reuniting the pair. The story became an award-winning Channel 4 documentary, The Stranger on the Bridge, which helped further the debate around mental health.
Suicide is the biggest killer of men under forty-five in the UK, but mental illness takes many forms and isn’t always so extreme. Jonny and Neil now work together to raise awareness of mental health issues, how to spot warning signs of ill health in yourself and others, and how organisations need to support and engage with employee mental health.
As well as working and campaigning together, Jonny and Neil were invited by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to represent the Royal Foundation’s Heads Together charity in the London Marathon.
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