One of the community’s leading mental health campaigners has relaunched the grant-giving organisation he co-founded with the stranger who helped save his life.
Jonny Benjamin, 33, who was awarded an MBE in 2017 for his services to mental health and suicide prevention, was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder at the age of 20 – a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – and almost took his own life.
His moving memoir The Stranger on the Bridge: My Journey from Despair to Hope, first published in 2018, and which contains a foreword written by Prince Williams, details his encounter with Neil Laybourn, the stranger who talked him down from a bridge in 2008 and their reunion years later following a viral social media campaign to track him down.
Now they are launching Beyond, a grant-giving organisation previously known as Beyond Shame Beyond Stigma, which allocates funding to organisations and charities already supporting young people, their families and educators.
The organisation, which was first set up in 2018, was relaunched with its new name on Monday to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, awarded its first grant to the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families to support the children’s charity in developing emergency resources for young people’s mental health in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Benjamin, who is guest editing this week’s issue of the Jewish News, said on Wednesday: “I set up Beyond out of frustration at seeing so many valuable local mental health services close down due to lack of funding, particularly those organisations helping young individuals struggling with their mental health.
“We know that suicide is the biggest killer of young people under 35, and that 75 percent of all mental illness begins in adolescence, and yet shockingly three-quarters of young people who do have a mental health issue don’t get the treatment they need.
“Our charity wants to go beyond these statistics and really make a difference by giving grants to organisations up and down the country in order to ensure young people get the help they deserve.”
The organisation is in the process of setting up a youth board to sit alongside its main trustee board and be involved in the grant-making decision process.