Mental Health Awareness Week: Prince’s Trust beneficiaries meet campaigner Jonny Benjamin

Faz and Jonny Benjamin.

Faz and Jonny Benjamin. - Credit: Archant

Last May, the Newham Recorder ran a 10-week campaign to raise awareness about mental health issues and to help tackle the stigma around them.

Faz and Jonny Benjamin.

Faz and Jonny Benjamin. - Credit: Archant

One year on, mental health in Newham remains mixed. While patients of a Plaistow mental health day hospital petitioned officials to try to prevent its closure, a £10 million Big Lottery grant to support young people’s wellbeing has had a positive impact.

This week, the Mental Health Foundation stated that two thirds of Britons have now experienced mental health problems.

The survey of 2,000 people showed the problem is getting worse with 70 per cent of young people aged 18 to 34 having experienced poor mental health compared to 58pc of those over the age of 55.

One of these is former Newham College attendee Faz who has been experiencing ill mental health since the age of eight.

The 21-year-old opened up to the Recorder about depression and anxiety on Monday with mental health campaigners Jonny Benjamin MBE and Neil Laybourn.

Thirty-year-old Jonny, who was prevented by Neil, 34, from taking his own life on Waterloo Bridge nine years ago, became known for his 2014 social media campaign with Rethink Mental Illness to #findMike - actually Neil - to thank him for talking him out of taking his own life.

Most Read

The pair met Prince’s Trust beneficiaries Faz and Milly Rawley to hear their inspirational stories for Mental Health Awareness Week.

Faz explained that it was after starting secondary school that things got worse. After spending many years bottling up what was happening, the young adult decided to speak out but was fobbed off.

“The first time I talked to my GP I was 18,” Faz said. “They did not take me seriously. They said it is fine, maybe you are not getting enough sleep or it’s your diet?”

Faz added: “Even I thought I was too young to have depression. I was an angry child, I didn’t know why.

“School would send me into anger management or isolation. They would make their own conclusions.”

Faz had spent a lot of time alone at school and felt “emotionless” for a long time, even when the problem was finally diagnosed.

At this point through an initiative with the Job Centre, Faz approached The Prince’s Trust for support.

With encouragement from the Team programme, and then the Get into Digital Media programme, Faz was able to develop renewed confidence and skills and has since set up the mental health awareness campaign called ‘Stay Alive’.

It has proven to be a welcome outlet for Faz’s creativity along with other activities.

“I love singing and I love writing,” Faz said. “When I don’t understand something I write it down.

“With depression I realised you are not always low but you are up and down.”

Faz now focuses on “looking at the positive and keeping busy” and wants to turn Stay Alive into a charity whose message can be taken across the world.

Jonny, who has schizoaffective disorder - a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar - agreed in his conversations with Faz and Milly that better education in schools is required with more funding from the government.

“Everyone is being encouraged to talk more but there is not the support in place for people who need to talk more,” he said.

Praising both Faz and Milly for their “inspirational” stories, he admitted that continued mental wellbeing was not always easy but keeping an open dialogue with others was vital.

“I try to look at things differently now,” he said, adding: “It’s not a battle now because I talk about it.”

To find out more about Faz’s Stay Alive campaign, google #StayAliveFaz