Nine years ago, two strangers stood side by side on the famed Waterloo Bridge that spans the River Thames in London. Jonny Benjamin was preparing to jump when Neil Laybourn – who was crossing the bridge on his way to work that day – saw his despair and ran to stop him. He assured him, “It’ll get better mate, you will get better.”
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Benjamin was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder 10 years ago, when he was 20, and was in the depths of depression the day Laybourn spotted him on the bridge. After speaking for nearly half an hour, professional help arrived and the two men went their separate ways.
6 years later, Benjamin launched a social media campaign to find and thank the man who saved him, and the two finally reunited in 2014.
The two men, now friends, recently crossed the finish line together at the end of the 26.2-mile London Marathon, and in the process raised the equivalent of about $40,000 for Heads Together.
Spearheaded by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, Heads Together aims to raise awareness about, and end the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
They agreed last year to run the marathon, while they were on their way with members of the royal family to a Heads Together event. Seven hundred others ran specifically to raise funds for the charity, while thousands of others wore the organization’s headband to show their support.
“I hid what was going on from my family and friends, and I think if these conversations had been the norm back then I would have been more open for sure,”Benjamin said before the race.
“When I walked past Jonny that day on the bridge, there was a fraction of anything about mental health in the media,”Laybourn noted in the same interview. “Now, there is an article in the newspaper every single day. It’s like an awakening at the moment, and it’s so great to see that.”
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