Education key to tackling Scotland’s apathy towards mental health
Published On Mon 14 May 2018 by Jonathan Watson
Education is critical to tackling apathy in Scotland towards mental health issues, two leading campaigners have said.
Jonny Benjamin MBE and Neil Laybourn will talk about their work and the mental health hurdles facing society when they appear as the latest guest speakers at the University of Dundee’s Saturday Series.
The pair, who met a decade ago as Jonny threatened to take his own life, will recall the event that brought them together and how that chance encounter changed both of their lives.
Ahead of their appearance at the University’s Dalhousie Building on Saturday 19 May, Jonny said that mental health is a subject that society can no longer ignore.
“There may be people in Scotland who feel that mental health is something that does not affect them, and therefore never will,” he said.
“It is this kind of attitude, this apathy towards mental health, that myself and Neil hope to address because it is something that can touch anybody, either directly or indirectly.
“Suicide is now the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the United Kingdom and education is key to transforming perceptions of what mental health is and what can be done to help those experiencing difficulties in their own lives.”
Jonny had just been diagnosed with a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder as he threatened to jump from London’s Waterloo Bridge in January 2008.
As hundreds of people simply walked past, Neil noticed the distressed stranger and initiated a 25-minute conversation that would ultimately save Jonny’s life.
Six years later, having established himself as a mental health campaigner and vlogger, Jonny started a social media campaign to track down the man who had intervened that day, generating headlines across the country when he and Neil were eventually reunited.
Since then the pair have become prominent mental health campaigners and were invited by Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge to represent the “Heads Together” charity in the 2016 London Marathon.
A poll conducted by YouGov earlier this year found that 67% of Scots aged 18-24 have experienced poor mental health as a result of loneliness, while a survey published by the Prince’s Trust in April found that 43% of young Scots have experienced a mental health problem.
“In today’s world, when we have never been more connected, it is terrible to think that there are people out there who feel they have nobody they can turn to,” said Neil.
“We hope our talk at the University of Dundee will at least start a conversation surrounding mental health issues and lead to positive change for people who otherwise may feel isolated.”
Jonny and Neil are the latest of this year’s guest speakers at the 2018 Saturday Series, the oldest continuous free series of public talks in Scotland.
The event takes place on Saturday 19 May from 6 – 7pm, and free tickets can be booked online via the university website at www.dundee.ac.uk/saturdayseries.
The audience is advised that overflow theatres may be in use with the main theatre filled on a first come, first seated basis.
The event will be followed by a drinks reception.
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