An award-winning filmmaker and campaigner spoke about the importance and challenges of discussing mental health at Kingston Liberal Synagogue (KLS) on Saturday (January 25).

Jonny Benjamin MBE was named on the Queen's 2017 Honours List for his services to mental health and suicide prevention.

His acclaimed 2015 film The Stranger on the Bridge won plaudits for its depiction of his search for the man who stopped him from taking his own life on Waterloo Bridge in 2008.

On Saturday he told attendees about living with schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar, which was only diagnosed after a psychotic breakdown led him to being admitted to hospital during his third year at University.

His escape from hospital led to his encounter with the "Stranger" of the film's title — a man called Neil Laybourn.

Benjamin's public search for Neil — who he referred to as "Mike" before they were reunited — touched millions and eventually helped the pair meet again as depicted in the film.

Speaking after the event, Rabbi René Pfertzel described Benjamin's talk as "powerful":

"Listening to Jonny speak was powerful, incredibly moving and ultimately uplifting," he said.

"Mental health problems are a part of the human condition and it is vital that people do not feel embarrassed to talk about them and seek help" Pfertzel added.

Today, Benjamin is an ambassador for Jami – an organisation which provides mental health services to the Jewish community.

He frequently gives talks like that at KLS in a direct challenge to the stigma that some people bring to discussions about mental health. 

"The work that Jonny is doing in raising awareness of these issues is vital and we are so proud and delighted that he came to talk to us this morning," Pfertzel said on Saturday.