London Marathon: Gay campaigner runs with man who saved him from taking his own life

A gay mental health campaigner is to run the London Marathon today with the man who talked him down from taking his own life.

Back in January 2008, Jonny Benjamin was stood on London’s Waterloo Bridge, considering jumping to take his own life. He had been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder at age 20, the same year he considered taking his own life.

But Neil Laybourn asked him to go for a coffee, saying “things will get better”, meaning Benjamin never went through with taking his life.

Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn

Benjamin was eight years later reunited with Laybourn after launching the ‘Find Mike’ campaign, as he thought his name was Mike, and will today run the 26.2 miles of the London Marathon.

They run in aid of the Heads Together mental health charity and were invited by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to run for their cause.

The pair say they agreed to run what will be the first marathon for both of them, when they were on the way to a Heads Together event last year.

Their sponsorship page is available here.

They say the race will be “phenomenal”, and that they aim to raise £50,000 for Heads Together.

“It’s going to be emotional, very emotional,” Benjamin said of running the Marathon.

“But we’re all in it together and I’m excited to be a part of it – it’s a privilege.”

Earlier in April, Benjamin tweeted to apologise for being quiet, but said his grandmother had died.

He wrote this morning on Facebook: “En route to the @LondonMarathon. So many butterflies in my stomach! I can’t believe this day has finally come!

“Admittedly, I haven’t done the training I needed for it. It’s been a tough year so far with my relapse and going back into hospital, family illness, and most recently my Uncle and then Grandma passing away a few days ago.

“But I WILL complete the 26 miles! Even if I have to crawl some of the way!!
This feels like such an important moment for mental health. They’re calling this the world’s first ever #mentalhealthmarathon

“It’s a privilege to be part of it.”

“I’m feeling really positive about it,” Laybourn added to the Telegraph.

Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn wearing London Marathon clothing

“When you’ve said it, and you’ve told Heads Together you’re doing it, you can’t undo it then.”

“When I walked past Jonny that day on the bridge, there was a fraction of anything about mental health in the media,” he continued.

“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.”

A spokesman for Kensington Palace told the Telegraph: “The Duke and Duchess and Prince Harry have decided that the work of Heads Together will continue well past the marathon.

“Their Royal Foundation will be partnering with the voluntary sector to back new initiatives to help people have conversations and get the information and guidance they need.

“This will include new digital programmes and a major push on research and training.”

The pair will be cheered on with other runners by Prince Harry and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at several points of the route.

Prince Harry says: “I’m sure it will be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. William, Catherine and I will be there to cheer you all on.”

Benjamin last year talked to PinkNews about a powerful new video highlighting the many issues facing men in today’s society.

In a touchingly honest new video – titled #IAmAMan – Benjamin can be seen openly discussing the various parts of his personality, physical appearance and health issues that leave him feeling most insecure.

In January 2016, Benjamin launched mental health workshops for young people.

Back in March, Prince Harry made a royal visit to the same HIV charity which his mother visited 26 years ago.