Cam­paigner’s emo­tional trip to col­lect MBE

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY LIANNE KOLIRIN

MEN­TAL HEALTH cam­paigner Jonny Ben­jamin col­lected his MBE on Tues­day, de­spite a re­cent set­back that left him hos­pi­talised and wor­ried he might not be well enough to re­ceive the award from Prince Wil­liam.

Mr Ben­jamin, a for­mer JFS pupil, ar­rived at Buck­ing­ham Palace in morn­ing suit to col­lect the honour for ser­vices to na­tional cam­paign­ing on aware­ness of sui­cide and men­tal ill­ness.

At the age of 20 Mr Ben­jamin was di­ag­nosed with schizoaf­fec­tive dis­or­der, a com­bi­na­tion of schizophre­nia and bipo­lar dis­or­der.

In 2008 he tried to take his own life by jump­ing from Water­loo Bridge but was dis­suaded by a passer-by. Mr Ben­jamin sub­se­quently launched a cam­paign to track down the stranger, which at­tracted huge pub­lic in­ter­est and led to him be­ing re­united with Neil Lay­bourn.

The pair, who are now friends and speak pub­licly on is­sues of men- tal health, at­tended the cer­e­mony to­gether, while Mr Ben­jamin de­clared on Twit­ter that he would be sharing the award with Mr Lay­bourn.

He de­scribed the momentous oc­ca­sion as “pretty emo­tional” and said he was “in­cred­i­bly grate­ful”, adding: “Ps I’m split­ting this in half with @neil­lay­bourn like Adele split her Grammy in half for Bey­once! Wouldn’t be here if not for him x”

Writ­ing on Face­book af­ter his visit to the palace, Mr Ben­jamin said: “What I felt more than any­thing else as I was stand­ing in the long line wait­ing to re­ceive my medal from Prince Wil­liam was sheer grate­ful­ness.

“So I’d re­ally just like to take this op­por­tu­nity to say thank you to all those who have shown me love and sup­port through­out this jour­ney. It sounds cliched but I truly couldn’t have done it and con­tinue to with­out you.”

There had been doubts over whether he would be able to col­lect the award in per­son. Ear­lier this month Mr Ben­jamin suf­fered a re­lapse that led to a hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sion.

He wrote on Face­book: “A couple of days ago I was ad­mit­ted into hos­pi­tal. I had a psy­chotic episode in the mid­dle of Lon­don; not the most ideal place for my mind to im­plode!”

Mr Ben­jamin re­vealed it was his fourth time in a psy­chi­atric unit “but this time I feel more con­fi­dent and hope­ful I can re­cover than I ever have done be­fore”.

Now an am­bas­sador for JAMI, the Jewish As­so­ci­a­tion for Men­tal Ill­ness, Mr Ben­jamin was sub­se­quently flooded with mes­sages from well-wish­ers.

On learn­ing of the award in the New Year’s Hon­ours List, Mr Ben­jamin had said he was “dumb­founded”.

His work has not, how­ever, been mo­ti­vated by the prospect of recog­ni­tion. He said: “I did it to help peo­ple. But this honour has been over­whelm­ing for me and my fam­ily.”

Mr Ben­jamin’s plight to find the man who saved his life was the sub­ject of a Chan­nel 4 doc­u­men­tary en­ti­tled The Stranger on the Bridge.

He now speaks pub­licly about liv­ing with men­tal ill­ness and has writ­ten ar­ti­cles and given me­dia in­ter­views to help break stig­mas about men­tal health.

He of­ten speaks along­side Mr Lay­bourn, a fit­ness trainer from Sur­rey. The pair are plan­ning to run the Lon­don Marathon to­gether in April in aid of Heads To­gether, a coali­tion of men­tal health and sui­cide pre­ven­tion char­i­ties setup by the Duke and Duchess of Cam­bridge with Prince Harry.

Lau­rie Rackind, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Jami, said the or­gan­i­sa­tion was “proud” to work with Mr Ben­jamin and added: “We are de­lighted to con­grat­u­late Jonny on his hugely well-de­served honour.”

I feel more con­fi­dent and hope­ful than ever be­fore’

Neil Lay­bourn (left) and Jonny Ben­jamin MBE

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.