Jonny Benjamin knows what it is like to suffer from mental problems in silence, and is now out to help school pupils in the same situation
EIGHT YEARS ago, Jonny Benjamin scaled the railings of Waterloo Bridge, ready to take his own life by jumping into the River Thames.
The then 20-year old, a former JFS pupil, had recently been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder — a form of schizophrenia — and, overwhelmed by the stigma of his condition, felt that life had become unbearable.
But a fortuitous encounter with a passing stranger, who recognised what Mr Benjamin was about to do and started talking to him, changed his mind. He climbed back over the railings and has since devoted his time to raising awareness for mental health and breaking the taboo.
Two years ago, he launched the international Find Mike campaign to find and thank the stranger he credits for saving his life, who later turned out to be personal trainer Neil Laybourn. He then made the Channel 4 documentary The Stranger on the Bridge, in partnership with the mental health charity Rethink, about his experiences.
And this month, he has turned his attention to breaking the silence over mental health issues inside schools. On Thursday, he launched ThinkWell, a workshop designed for children between the ages of 13 and 18 in schools across the UK.
Mr Benjamin said he was inspired to create the project because of the “massive gap in the national curriculum when it comes to mental health”.
He explained: “We know that young people are suffering more than ever before with poor mental health, with 75 per cent of all mental health problems starting before the age of 18.
“More young people than ever are being admitted into hospital for conditions like eating disorders, self-harm and depression. It just doesn’t make sense to me that there is no education around the issue.”
The project will involve a ThinkWell team, comprised of workshop leaders and a qualified therapist, visiting every secondary school in the country that signs up to deliver a 100-minute session aimed at encouraging discussion around mental health by screening excerpts from Mr Benjamin’s documentary and organising interactive activities.
They will also provide a “safe space” in an adjacent room for those who wish
Having known what it is like to be subject to stigma, Jonny Benjamin is now working to change the way mental health
Weknow thatyoung peopleare sufferingmore thaneverbefore withpoor mentalhealth