Neil Laybourne and Jonny Benjamin MBE
Mental Health Campaigners
The pair are award winning mental health campaigners. Their journey together began in 2008, when Neil found Jonny standing on the edge of Waterloo Bridge in London and talked him out of taking his own life. Jonny had just been diagnosed with schizophrenia and depression, and was extremely unwell. Neil’s interaction saved his life but the two were separated when the police intervened at the bridge and took Jonny away to be sectioned. 6 years later, in 2014, Jonny launched a campaign on Twitter to find and thank the man who had stopped him taking his own life – #FindMike. It became a global news campaign that reached over 300 million people around the world. It was successful in reuniting the two strangers within a matter of weeks from the campaign being launched. Both men united to campaign around the issues of mental health and suicide, which is now the biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK. The story of their journey was made into a TV documentary, The Stranger on the Bridge, which aired on Channel 4 in 2015 and had a meaningful impact on millions of viewers. The documentary has won a number of awards and is currently being aired internationally. Neil and Jonny have presented their story in a number of different organisations all over the UK and after a private meeting with Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge in March 2016, the pair were invited by the Royal Foundation to represent the ‘Heads Together’ charity in running for the 2017 London Marathon.
Andrew Caress, Mental Health Trainer
Charlie Waller Memorial Trust
In 2014, Andy qualified as a Youth Mental Health First Aid Instructor with MHFA England, training people who work with young people to identify and
support those with mental health difficulties. He also began working
freelance with BEAT, an eating disorder charity, delivering sessions on body
image and self confidence. In 2015, Andy started working with the Charlie
Waller Memorial Trust, delivering bespoke training for parents, staff and
students on all aspects of mental health. He also speaks at various mental
health conferences. Andy also works as a theatre chaperone and tutor and over the last two years has worked with The Lion King and Mary Poppins theatre productions supporting the children’s pastoral needs. He has also worked as a youth worker, supporting young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties. His background in youth work and teaching, combined with his personal experience of depression and anxiety, gives him an empathetic and sensitive approach to training backed up by his strong background in understanding adolescent mental wellbeing
Mental Health Campaigner
James is a very dedicated and committed campaigner for improved mental health services and raising awareness of eating disorders, especially amongst men and has recently appeared on BBC Panorama- ‘Men, Boys and Eating Disorders’. His personal interest stems from his own wealth of experience – good and bad – of trying to access support for a severe eating disorder, which developed in his teenage years and lasted for over a decade. In total, James had to wait over 6 years for specialist eating disorder treatment, something he believes nobody should have to endure. James’s work to improve services began locally; participating on various NHS committees, undertaking outreach with the student population and helping deliver training including lectures on Cardiff University courses. This work quickly went national, when James became the “Voice of Mind” for Wales, representing Mind for their General Election campaign in 2015 and engaging extensively on a political level. He has shared his story and insight at many conferences, also receiving high-profile national media coverage and writing for the Huffington Post. As a central member of the Cross-Party Group for Eating Disorders at the Welsh Assembly, James’s involvement was key in calling for a review of the Eating Disorders Framework for Wales. This resulted in an increase in funding of over 50% per annum for specialist services in Wales. With NHS England, he has worked with leading experts in the field to write curricula and service specifications for child and adolescent eating disorders services, and sees how these are implemented on the ground as a member of the Clinical Network for Eating Disorders for the South East of England. He is delighted have been appointed a trustee of the award-winning charity, “Men Get Eating Disorders Too” in 2017. James is also a qualified yoga teacher, and is running a project teaching yoga one-to-one within a specialist community eating disorders service in Wales. This is representative of his belief in always considering the whole person, and the benefits of providing holistic support in a non-medicalised setting. In addition to his work, he is also studying Psychology at the University of Cambridge.