One bleak day in 2008 Jonny Benjamin could never have imagined that his future would hold such bright prospects. Standing on the edge of Waterloo Bridge contemplating taking his life, the landscape he saw in front of him was terrifying. When Neil Laybourn walked past and stopped to talk him down he also never imagined what lay ahead. That fateful meeting spawned a unique partnership. A decade of pioneering and powerful mental health advocacy, culminating in a series of highly influential talks to major corporates about looking after their staff, and establishing helpful procedures for those facing mental health challenges.
On the eve of This Can Happen, Neil and Jonny’s latest project – a ground-breaking mental health conference taking place in London in November, they look back on some of their most influential and memorable talks.
On January 15th this year, a notorious day known as Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year – the Royal Bank of Canada invited Neil and Jonny to speak about overcoming mental health problems in the workplace.
Telling the story of how they met always provokes an emotional reaction, but it was their knowledge of mental health crises commonly battled by so many amongst us, that impressed their room. Full to capacity, the audience left the meeting with ideas for practical solutions that are easily adoptable and enormously helpful.
With the driving rain outside the windows a reminder that we can’t control our environment, Jonny and Neil talked about the need for identifying those around us who need a ray of sunshine in their lives and how simple things like offering them a listening ear can make the world of difference.
The attendees offered unanimous, outstanding feedback after the event.
“I was privileged to have been able to attend the RFuture event where Jonny and Neil highlighted observations and ongoing perceptions around mental health . It was both humbling and haunting to hear how Jonny’s wellbeing deteriorated to the extent that the only option he saw he had was suicide – yet it was uplifting to hear how a complete stranger had saved him.”
Sean Taor, MD European Head of DCM & Syndicate
“I am so glad to have trudged through the rain on Blue Monday to what was an amazing event laid on by RFuture UK. Jonny and Neil have an incredibly moving and inspiring story and spoke with great candour about the work they do to encourage people to be much more open when discussing depression and other mental health conditions.”
Graeme Pearson, Head of European Equities
“Jonny and Neil were the perfect deliverers of a message about mental health and suicide awareness that resonated with all of us who attended the RFuture event.”
Dylan Pinches, Analyst, Graduate Rotation Program, CM
“It’s nothing out of the ordinary for two people to stumble across each other in their daily lives, but the morning when Jonny and Neil’s paths crossed on Waterloo Bridge, is surely an exception. Their story is a true inspiration and made me much more aware of mental health issues.”
Qianru DuAnalyst, Graduate Rotation Program
“Jonny and Neil’s openness and honesty in telling their s tory was emotional and impactful. They highlighted the importance of raising awareness, creating an open culture to discuss mental health and that there is tremendous support available.”
Andrew Stormer, Senior Human Resources Business Partner