The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge met with two mental health campaigners on Thursday – one of which tried to take his own life – in an effort to raise awareness of suicide prevention.
The royal couple continued their ongoing campaign of mental health awareness as they shook hands with Johnny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn at London’s St Thomas’ Hospital. Mr Laybourn intervened as Mr Benjamin prepared to jump from Waterloo Bridge in 2008, talking him down and saving his life. At the time, he never learnt the name of his saviour and so, in 2014, launched the #FindMike campaign on social media in a bid to find and thank him. Both men were reunited after the viral search revealed Mr Laybourn, a former personal trainer, as the good Samaritan.
Mr Benjamin, then 20, was sectioned and taken to St Thomas’ Hospital. On Thursday morning, Mr Benjamin shared an image on Twitter of his hospital admission form eight years ago, saying he was “in a very different place” at the time and told followers “It gets better.”
On Thursday, Prince William and Catherine listened intently to Johnny and Neil as they spoke of the work they are doing to raise further awareness of suicide prevention. Since the #FindMike campaign went viral, the pair have been travelling the country discussing the impacts of mental health issues with young people. Mr Benjamin now regularly attends screenings of the documentary which captured his and Neil’s reunion in 2014 and encourages open dialogue about an increasingly pressing issue.
The Duke and Duchess left the hospital for the short trip to Kensington Palace, where they watched the documentary – called Finding Mike: The Stranger on the Bridge – with 20 young people from a South London school. Led by Jonny, Neil and the charity Rethink Mental Illness, the royals joined a discussion of the film’s key messages and listened to some of the youngsters share their experiences of mental health in the youth today.
The couple expressed sympathetic glances as one young girl hesitantly talked about the bullying she had suffered as a result of her autistic spectrum disorder diagnosis. Both royals encouraged students to open up to those closest to them about any issues they were facing, and also shared a joke or two with some of the other assembled youngster before they left.
The royals’ final engagement of the day was a private discussion with those left bereaved by suicide. William and Catherine chatted to small group of individuals about the support they received in the aftermath and their feelings about mental health awareness in the UK.
Both the Duke and Duchess, alongside Prince Harry, have made the issue a primary focus of their royal work. The Duchess recently guest-edited The Huffington Post, in a fresh bid to raise awareness of mental health issues in children and young people as part of the site’s ‘Young Minds Matter’ series. Prince William, meanwhile, has said he plans to focus on male suicide – which is the biggest killer of men aged 20-45 in the UK. In his work as an Air Ambulance Pilot, the Prince has been reported to have responded to suicide cases involving young men, a key driving force for his focus on prevention efforts.
Both royals are set to attend a number of other engagements ahead for their Spring tour to India and Bhutan. They will join The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh for a Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey on 14 March before carrying out separate engagements later in the week.
Prince William will present the 1st BAttalion Irish Guards with their traditional shamrocks at the St Patrick’s Day ceremony on 17 March, whilst the Duchess will officially open a new charity shop in Norfolk, in her role as Royal Patron of East Anglia Children’s Hospices on March 18.