Mental health campaigners receive honorary degrees from the University of Bristol

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Two award-winning mental health campaigners, Neil Laybourn and Jonny Benjamin, received honorary degrees from the University yesterday (17th July 2018).

The gentlemen were presented with the degrees in recognition of their invaluable work and services to mental health campaigns and suicide prevention. The bestowment follows the pair’s sold-out talk given in Bristol on 6th October 2017, that coincided with the University’s signing of the Time to Change pledge and the Time to Change Organisation’s tenth anniversary.

The pledge signifies the University’s commitment to look after the mental health of its students and staff, ensuring those suffering with their mental health feel supported. This commitment is secured with the development of an action plan drafted by the institution with the help of the Time to Change organisation.

The pair’s involvement in mental health work follows Jonny’s own battle with schizophrenia and depression. This caused the two individuals to meet in 2008 when Neil talked Jonny out of jumping from London’s Waterloo Bridge and taking his own life.

The men were reunited in 2014, after Jonny launched the ‘Find Mike’ campaign in an attempt to locate the stranger, now known to be Neil Laybourn, who helped talk him out of taking his own life ten years ago.

The pair’s involvement in mental health work follows Jonny’s own battle with schizophrenia and depression.

The inspirational life story has allowed the two men to develop a life-long friendship. Neil noted what a pleasure it had been thus far to share the journey with Jonny and very touchingly added how the two were now “best friends” more than anything else.

At the ceremony yesterday, their moving acceptance speech left many of the audience teary-eyed and the whole Grand Hall at the Wills Memorial Building on their feet in standing ovation.

Drawing parallels to his own life, Jonny suggested that at a similar age to the other graduates present, he was diagnosed with Schizophrenia and as a result of his battles with mental health, too unwell to attend his own graduation ceremony. Consequently, he noted how the bestowment of the honorary degree was a life 'highlight'.

Featured Image: University of Bristol


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