This Can Happen founders Neil Laybourn and Jonny Benjamin met on Waterloo Bridge under extremely emotional and stressful circumstances. Jonny was contemplating taking his own life as hundreds of passers-by walked past him, oblivious to his distress. But when Neil took that leap from concerned passer-by to a sympathetic ear, he saved Jonny’s life and together they have vowed to improve mental health awareness and action around the world.
The core of Neil and Jonny’s partnership is bringing their story into businesses to help leadership teams understand how they can be that person who stopped on the bridge. There are so many ways in which managers and colleagues can be helpful as soon as they spot signs of trouble. Sometimes they just need confidence and ideas to help them step in.
Earlier this year the pair presented their story and advice to law firm Clyde & Co’s London office. We spoke to Rachel Euripides, Corporate Responsibility and Inclusion Administrator at Clyde & Co, about the vital and positive messages from their visit.
Q. Why did the business decide to book Neil and Jonny to speak?
A. The conversation around mental health in people’s everyday lives, the media, and in business is opening up at the moment and many of us had heard of Neil and Jonny’s amazing story. People within the company and corporate law in general are often talking about feeling stressed and there’s a historic culture that you should keep these problems to yourself and just get on with it. We knew we had to change that.
Q. What was the response when you sent out the invitation?
A. The response was amazing. We had about 70 email replies within an hour of sending it out which is unprecedented. Everyone was really keen to get involved and there was a fantastic turnout. The room was full and everyone was engaged, asking loads of questions. It was one of our most successful events to date. There was a drinks reception after where people were chatting to the boys and Jonny was signing his book, which many people bought.
Q. What has been the impact on staff since the event?
A. Many staff have asked us how they can be involved. We asked them to let us know if they’d be interested in becoming mental health champions and first aiders and about 50 people have volunteered so far, which is great.
Q. Do you think that mental health in the workplace is being dealt with well in the industry as a whole?
A. A lot more needs to be done. It is the same across the professional services as a whole, but us and other law firms are really starting focus on it now. It will be pushed to the forefront of our agenda during the next year.
We’re delighted that Rachel told us about the impact of the visit. Neil and Jonny’s life passion is to give businesses the opportunity to hear their incredible story and to make a real difference. Look out for them at your company!