MBE for mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin


Mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin collected his MBE on Tuesday, despite a recent setback that left him hospitalised and worried he might not be well enough to receive the award from Prince William.

Mr Benjamin, a former JFS pupil, arrived at Buckingham Palace in morning suit to collect the honour for services to national campaigning on awareness of suicide and mental illness.

At the age of 20 Mr Benjamin was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. In 2008 he tried to take his own life by jumping from Waterloo Bridge but was dissuaded by a passer-by. Mr Benjamin subsequently launched a campaign to track down the stranger, which attracted huge public interest and led to him being reunited with Neil Laybourn.

The Royal Family’s social media team tweeted to say: “Big congratulations to mental health campaigner @MrJonnyBenjamin, today awarded his MBE by The Duke of Cambridge at today's #investiture.”

Mr Benjamin and Mr Laybourn, who are now friends and speak publicly on issues of mental health, attended the ceremony together, while Mr Benjamin declared on Twitter that he would be sharing the award with Mr Laybourn. He described the momentous occasion as “pretty emotional” and said he was “incredibly grateful”, adding: “Ps I'm splitting this in half with @neillaybourn like Adele split her Grammy in half for Beyonce! Wouldn't be here if not for him x”

There had been doubts over whether he would be able to collect the award in person. Earlier this month Mr Benjamin suffered a relapse that led to a hospital admission.

Earlier this month he wrote on Facebook: “A couple of days ago I was admitted into hospital. I had a psychotic episode in the middle of London; not the most ideal place for my mind to implode!”

Mr Benjamin revealed that it was his fourth time in a psychiatric unit “but this time I feel more confident and hopeful I can recover than I ever have done before”.

Now an ambassador for JAMI, the Jewish Association for Mental Illness, Mr Benjamin was subsequently flooded with messages from well-wishers.

Upon learning of the award in the New Year’s Honours List, Mr Benjamin said: “I was dumbfounded and took a while to recover from the shock.”

His work has not, however, been motivated by the prospect of recognition. He said: “I did it to help people. But this honour has been overwhelming for me and my family.”

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive