Mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin has revealed he “suffered in silence for so many years”, but has now found a purpose in helping others “break the taboo” of their illness.
Benjamin, 29, made the heartfelt comments after receiving Jewish Care’s Topland Business Luncheon Award on Wednesday afternoon.
The event, which was held at Grosvenor House Hotel, in Park Lane, helped raise more than £250,000 for Jewish Care’s residential homes for people with mental health needs and featured guest speaker Nick Robinson, former political editor and presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Speaking to a 700-strong audience, Benjamin revealed how he had struggled since a child with hearing voices, depression, psychosis and eventually suicidal thoughts.
Aged 20, the former JFS pupil prepared to throw himself off Waterloo Bridge before a stranger came forward and convinced him not take his own life.
Six years later and having been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, Benjamin launched a social media campaign, Find Mike, to search for the man who helped save his life and attracted global attention. Within a fortnight, he was reunited with Neil Laybourn.
The pair have since campaigned together and plan to run in next year’s London Marathon to raise money for Heads Together, a mental health charity.
Thanking Laybourn for their “very special” bond, as well as his parents Michael and Helen Benjamin for their support, the award-winning film-maker and vlogger, said: “When I was diagnosed, I thought I have no purpose anymore, but that purpose for me now is to help others.
“There are difficult times still and I wish my illness wasn’t as impactful on my life as it is, but I no longer have regrets, no shame, no embarrassment. I now completely accept my condition and acceptance has been key in my recovery.”
The ambassador for Jewish mental health charity, Jami, added: “So many parents talk to me and say, ‘please help me, I can’t reach my child’ and it’s heart-breaking. I just want to do what I can to break that taboo, because mental health is still such a taboo for so many people.”