The story of Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn is enough to restore your faith in humanity — or at least consider that every one of us has the power to impact someone's life for the better.
In January 2008 Jonny, who had suffered from mental health issues since childhood and had recently been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, was so overwhelmed by life that he decided to end it all. As he prepared to jump from London's Waterloo Bridge a passerby stopped to talk to him, calm him down and tell him that things could always get better. It worked.
Six years later Jonny decided to find the man who saved his life but all he knew (or thought he knew) was that his name was Mike. With the help of Rethink Mental Illness Jonny launched the campaign #FindMike, appearing on TV and radio, speaking to newspapers and using the hashtag #FindMike on social media. His story soon went viral, with stars such as Boy George and Stephen Fry tweeting their support. And, finally, Mike came forward. Except he was called Neil, a personal trainer from Surrey, who had also thought about Jonny many times since that day on Waterloo Bridge.
Writing on the BBC News Ouch Blog, Jonny said of his reunion with Neil: "We talked in detail about what had happened on the bridge and in the years since. He was as warm and kind as I remembered from our first encounter and during the reunion it began to feel as if I was talking to an old friend I'd known for years."
"The most amazing thing of all is how passionate he is now about raising awareness of mental illness and suicide, and we have both become ambassadors for the charity Rethink Mental Illness," Jonny wrote. "Together we want to inspire hope and recovery in anyone who is struggling with their mental health."
Video credit: Channel 4/YouTube
The Stranger on the Bridge is on Channel 4 tonight at 9 p.m.
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