There are around 700 incidents along the River Thames every year — with more than 30 ending in fatalities.

By Simon Perry
May 16, 2019 12:16 PM
Prince William
Kirsty Wigglesworth - WPA Pool/Getty

Mental health crusader Prince William is on a “real mission” to combat male suicide, a fellow campaigner says.

This week, William, 36, teamed up with England’s soccer players to highlight well-being among athletes — and addressed the heartbreaking statistic that suicide is the biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in Britain.

And last week, he and the Royal Foundation, which is headed by himself, wife Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, introduced the new emergency text service Shout.

Up next: A program to prevent accidents and self-harm incidents on the River Thames in London. There are around 700 incidents along the river every year — with more than 30 ending in fatalities.

“He is not just raising awareness but putting things in place that will make a difference. It’s all very well talking about mental health, but we need to make sure there are things happening,” says Jonny Benjamin.

“What he is doing with this new initiative is really needed — and he has the influence and power to bring things together.”

Benjamin is joining William, 36, next week as they introduce the Drowning Prevention Strategy, which they hope will unite agencies, police and the various boroughs of London so they can be jointly aware of the issue and how they can help.

Benjamin reached rock bottom himself when, after suffering from a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar, he ran away from the hospital on January 14, 2008, and came to a bridge in London over the River Thames. He was on the ledge and approached by a young man who “started to engage with me and he started telling me about himself,” Benjamin previously told PEOPLE of the hero who saved him: Neil Laybourn.

Benjamin spoke to William last week and thanked him for his awareness-raising of the issue. “He is always so humble. He said to me, ‘You’re always doing lots of hard work,’ and I said ’You are too.’ He doesn’t seem to like to shout about it. I’ve done a lot of events this week and whenever I talk to people everyone is so impressed with what he is doing.”

“He is on a real mission — which is fantastic — and I feel very proud to be a part of it, and excited,” Benjamin adds.

“We know so many people who go to bridges, unfortunately, in London. With this, we can hopefully reach people quicker and prevent people jumping off. It will be about bringing a quicker and better response.”