Jonny has been coping with mental illness since he was a child. He is prone to extreme anxiety attacks and gets obsessive thoughts. He watched the Truman Show and for the next ten years believed he was Truman Burbank. Jonny watched the film at the cinema with a friend, who then said; “Maybe that could be you, but you wouldn’t know it.”
Jonny started dwelling on that idea and for the next decade believed that he was being watched by cameras just like in the Truman Show. He started to believe that everything that happened to him was not real. It wasn’t until he was finally hospitalised at the age of 20 that a psychiatrist finally explained to him that it was all in his head. This proved to be a major awakening for Jonny and he started to realise that he had been in a delusion.
Now Jonny has started a blog where he posts videos talking about his experiences and has so far posted about 40 videos. In the videos he speaks openly about hearing voices, the employment difficulties he faces, and many other personal insights. This month he has received the Janey Antoniou Award, presented by the mental illness charity Rethink, for his work battling stigma and raising awareness of schizophrenia and mental illness.
Benjamin’s videos are very honest and some might think that disclosing a mental illness online could harm his future in the same way indiscreet photos posted to Facebook can affect your future job prospects but Jonny dismisses this. “It doesn’t concern me too much. I’d rather be open about my mental health than hide it away. I suffered so much growing up because I kept everything silent, I could never go through that again. I feel like I have to be open and honest now, just for my own health.”
Listening to Jonny gives a fascinating insight into how people can cope with mental illness. He explains how he has to monitor how much television he watches so that he doesn’t become delusional about the programme. He says that he has many friend with schizophrenia who believe they’re getting messages from their TV, in particular from reality shows.
The main thing that struck me about Jonny was that, despite suffering from schizophrenia, he is still pretty much like you and me. He is not a monster, he is somebody with a problem who is doing his best to overcome that problem and while doing so is relieving some of the negative connotations associated with mental illness.
You can watch some of Jonny’s videos here.