Jonny Benjamin MBE is an awarding winning mental health campaigner, writer, film producer, public speaker and vlogger. At the age of 20 he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, which is a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar. Having been affected by mental illness from a young age, Jonny is passionate about improving mental health for young people, and has started up a charity Beyond. The charity held the first-ever mental health and wellbeing festival for primary and secondary schools during Children’s Mental Health Week in February this year.
Jonny tells me his story about how mental illness has affected him from a young age and about the devastation he felt at getting a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder due to the stigma surrounding it. He tells me about his intention to take his own life and about the life-changing meeting he had with the stranger on the bridge and about how his words of positivitiy and optimism changed Jonny’s mind, which led him on, some years later, to create a campaign to find this stranger called ‘Find Mike’ with the charity Rethink Mental Illness which went viral and was shared by millions all over the world.
We speak about the pressure on teachers to take responsibility for children and young people’s mental health and how more action needs to be taken to support this.
We discuss compassion focused therapy and self-love – an area we are both passionate about. And Jonny emphasises the importance of active listening – something that many of us don’t do properly, but can be hugely helpful for people.
There is still a damaging stigma around mental illness and Jonny is having an amazing impact in dismantling this. For many people right now, poor mental health is absolutely rife and so I was so pleased to have this conversation with Jonny, to hopefully shine some positivity and hope for those struggling, that there are ways to get better. Jonny also gives some great advice for those wanting to help others.
The book Jonny recommended by Dr Kristin Neff self-compassion.org