A CAMPAIGNER who launched a global search to find the stranger who saved him from suicide has called for teaching on mental health in schools to be given as much priority as PE lessons.
Jonny Benjamin was about to jump to his death from Waterloo Bridge in London in 2008 when a man passing by intervened and talked him to safety.
He later launched a social media campaign to find the stranger and was eventually reunited with the man he nicknamed ‘Mike’, who turned out to be Neil Laybourn, from Surrey.
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Benjamin, 29, will recount his experience of growing up with mental health problems at charity Children in Scotland’s annual conference taking place in Cumbernauld on Wednesday and Thursday.
Speaking ahead of the event, he said: “I had no mental health education at school – as a result I didn’t get help and I became really unwell.
“I became psychotic and had to go into hospital. I think that could have been prevented if there was something in the way of education or awareness raising at school.
“Three-quarters of all mental illness begins in adolescence – but although we do sport in schools to maintain good physical health, we never do anything in terms of mental health.”
Benjamin said he believed there is more pressure on young people now than ever before and an urgent need for better mental health awareness in schools.
He said: “I go into schools and they talk to me about their real concerns around online bullying or just the pressures of being online. It worries me the level of anxiety they have around it.
“If we don’t talk about it we are going to create a generation with serious mental health issues.”
Jackie Brock, chief executive of Children in Scotland, said: "Children and young people's mental health in Scotland is certainly not where we want it to be and it is clear they need better and easier access to both proactive and reactive services.
"Schools are well placed to help provide opportunities to youngsters through positive connections and by creating healthy school environments.”
Mental health minister Maureen Watt said the Scottish Government had introduced targets in child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) to improve treatment, the first such target in the UK and every school has a named CAMHS specialist.