The Stranger on the Bridge campaigners Johnny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn bring their personal tale to Ticketmaster UK.
Diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder following a terrifying moment of psychosis, Jonny Benjamin found himself sat on the edge of London’s Waterloo Bridge, ready to take his own life. Unaware of the situation ahead, Neil Laybourn was making his daily commute to work, which coincidentally took him past the structural landmark. Seeing Jonny and without hesitation, Neil sat beside him and their lives immediately merged.
On Thursday 11 May 2017, Jonny and Neil visited the Ticketmaster UK offices as part of the company’s LiveWell and ThinkWell campaigns. Since that day on the bridge, both have travelled the world to increase the awareness of mental health challenges faced by one in four people in any given year. Their goal is to encourage an open dialogue, to ensure nobody suffers the isolation that drove Benjamin to the edge of the bridge.
With an uncensored honesty, Jonny spoke of his early life. From battling with his sexuality to the “angel’s voice” in his head, he addressed his mental health issues with a refreshing frankness, as they led him towards being diagnosed and sectioned. He spoke of how he believed he was all alone in his difficult situation, with nobody to talk to. Until the day he met Neil, he had never felt heard or accepted.
Neil changed Jonny’s life. He saved it. With a few simple words, encouraging him not to be ashamed and crucially believing that he could get better, Jonny no longer wanted to take his own life. Jonny stepped away from the bridge’s edge, and towards recovery.
Despite the occasional setback, Jonny is now intrinsically aware of how to manage his mental health. He compares it to being physically unwell, and stresses the importance of looking after your own mind and body. He speaks of yoga, of mindfulness, and of self-belief. Above all else, he speaks of support, and to never suffer in silence.
For both Neil and Jonny, it’s about creating an atmosphere of acceptance and approachability. It’s important to make yourself open. Neil acknowledges that prior to the events on the bridge, he may not have been perceived by his peers as available for discussions on mental health. That was now changed. Together, they are helping to break down the stigma, and to encourage conversation and support.
Both visited Ticketmaster UK as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to employee’s health and wellbeing, both in and out of the workplace. LiveWell aims to help energise employees and create a fun workplace. ThinkWell forms part of the five pillars of that strategy, focussing on mental wellness.
Ticketmaster have signed the Time To Change pledge, demonstrating a commitment to change how we think and act about mental health in the workplace and make sure that employees who are facing these problems feel supported.
Jonny and Neil have further cemented the need for such a commitment, and to foster an inclusive and supportive environment. Because you never know when you might inadvertently save somebody’s life.
Find out more about Time To Change here.