How Kate Middleton and Prince William really are behind closed doors, mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin reveals

Sharnaz Shahid |

Mental health campaigner Johnny Benjamin is known for his book and documentary film, The Stranger on the Bridgewhich aims to end the stigma surrounding talking about mental health, suicidal thoughts and schizoaffective disorder.

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When his campaign to find the man who stopped him from committing suicide went viral, Jonny became a spearhead when lifting the lid on mental health issues.

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To participate in HELLO!’s mental health digital Edition guest edited by Scarlett Moffattpublic speaker Jonny shares his own journey with depression as he reflects on the work of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge

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“Prince William was amazing, he was so supportive and so was Catherine,” he said. “They are so supportive and kind, they really care about mental health. Neil [Laybourn] and I was lucky enough to meet him in 2016.

“We just sat down with them and saw how passionate they were and they are about mental health and suicide prevention and how much they want to do. Prince William has been really incredibly supportive of me. So we’re very, very grateful.”


Prince William and Kate with Jonny and Neil in 2016

Over the years, there’s no denying how openly Prince William and Kate have been destigmatizing the conversation about mental health and their goal of de-stigmatizing it.

The royals met Jonny and Neil in 2016, a year before the author was awarded an MBE for his services to mental health. “I was so nervous and I think Neil was nervous too,” Jonny recalls. “But it was so relaxed and casual. When we shook their hands, they said, ‘Just call us by our name.’ I didn’t know how to address them.”

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Once the cameras had gone, Jonny revealed how “it just felt like talking to friends”. He said: “They were so relaxed and open. Again, just really passionate about mental health. With William it was mainly with men and Catherine with young people.

“It feels like one of their life missions in their career really revolves around mental health and suicide prevention, which is great and what is needed.”

When asked if the royal couple is doing enough, Jonny said: “Yeah, it’s so important. It is so necessary, especially with the pandemic and the lockdowns and with everything that is going on in the world right now.

“There are a lot of people who are having a hard time. We need these kinds of role models and there are a lot of them now, which is great.” Jonny believes the country has come a long way to end mental health discrimination.

“I find it amazing that we have come such a long way in the last two years, especially in the UK,” he added. “We’ve come such a long way because of how many people are sharing and opening up.”


The author obtained his MBE in 2017

In 2008, Jonny nearly committed suicide when he was 20 years old. He stood on the edge of Waterloo Bridge in London, ready to jump. A stranger named ‘Mike’, whose real name is Neil Laybourn, stopped to talk to him and convinced him to climb back to safety.

About the beginning of his journey, Jonny said, “I think it started when I was very young. My parents took me to a psychologist when I was five when we knew something might be wrong.”

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He added: “I had depression at school, but I didn’t know it was depression at the time. I tried to get help, but I couldn’t really get the help I needed. So I just tried to pushing it away, trying to pretend it wasn’t there.”

It wasn’t until Jonny started college that things got even more serious. “When I was 20, I was hospitalized and diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which is similar to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” he explained. “I felt like this was the end for me when I got that diagnosis.

“I ran away from the hospital and ended up on the edge of a bridge. I was in a terrible place, but luckily there was a stranger walking by and he came and stood next to me and started this conversation with me.”


The Book of Hope, £10.99, Amazon


As he built his trust with Neil, Jonny explained, “There was just something about this guy that was really nice, calm and positive. I started building this trust with him and he eventually convinced me to get off the edge. to come.

“We were going to have coffee, but we didn’t get the chance because someone called the police and I was taken away and the stranger had to go the other way. That was the start of a very long journey to finally start talking, getting therapy and medicine to take.”

Jonny then went on a mission to find this stranger with a viral campaign – the pair found each other on Facebook and their reunion was documented in their Channel 4 documentary.

After his quest to find Neil came to an end, the two men formed an unbreakable bond and have since founded a charity called Beyond, ran marathons and spoke to audiences around the world.

“The journey still continues. We work together, we lecture, we share our story, and we set up Beyond, a charity for youth in the field of mental health. I’ve also written a few books since then,” Jonny added .

“I mean, my own mental health isn’t ready yet, it’s ongoing. I’ve had a few relapses and it’s been hard. It’s really hard, but I’m in a different place today, I’m talking and I’m very open about it I have great support.”


Jonny is known for his book and documentary film The Stranger on the Bridge

Jonny teams up with Britt Pflüger for the release of his second book, The Book of Hope: 101 Voices on Overcoming Adversity. In this book, he brings together a variety of voices to speak across the spectrum of our experiences with mental health and the power of speaking and seeking help.

“I wanted to put something together in a book where different people, from all walks of life, share their stories of how they overcame adversity and found hope again. I think especially with the pandemic, everything that is happening in the world right now. happens, people need that hope and inspiration.

“For me, it was very important to get a variety of people, because not everyone can relate to my story. I wanted people from all over the world, from different cultures and backgrounds to share how they overcame adversity. So that anyone who reads it can at least get something from one person, if not more people.”

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