Setting out to find the man who saved his life
The world can be a cold and lonely place, but just a few kind words from someone, even a complete stranger, can change lives. Does that sound far-fetched, or a cliché? If so, then prepare to have your world view altered by
a moving documentary about a moment in Jonny Benjamin’s life. He had suffered from mental health problems from the age of 10, and in January 2008 had recently been diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a kind of cross between bipolar and schizophrenia. He was feeling so overwhelmed by the situation that he decided to end his life by jumping from London’s Waterloo Bridge. However, a stranger on his way to work realised Jonny’s intention and took the time to speak to him, to calm him down and tell him that things could get better. Meanwhile, another bystander called the police who escorted Jonny to hospital. And that seemed to be the end of the story until, six years later, Jonny launched a campaign, with help from the Rethink Mental Illness charity, to find the man he credits with saving his life. He’d imagined the man to be called Mike, and after giving interviews on TV and radio as well as to newspapers, his story went viral via the hashtag #Findmike. Celebrities such as Stephen Fry and Boy George tweeted their support – and eventually, personal trainer Neil Laybourn from Surrey came forward. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw the campaign, I got in touch straight away,” says Neil. “I was so pleased to see how well Jonny was doing, I had thought about him over the years and had always hoped he was OK. "When we met, it was clear how much that encounter on the bridge meant to Jonny, he told me it was a pivotal moment in his life – which was great to hear. I didn’t feel it was that big a deal, I did what anyone would do. I wasn’t trying to fix his problems that day, I just listened. “I can honestly say, hand on heart, that Jonny is one of the nicest people I have ever met. We’ll definitely stay in touch.” Jonny, meanwhile, is a charity campaigner, and feels he has a new lease of life: “That day on the bridge my life hit rock bottom, but meeting Neil, I felt so happy, it couldn’t be more of a contrast. He’s such a warm, genuine person – everyone should have a friend like Neil. This campaign meant so much to me, not only because I found Neil, but I’ve had the opportunity to speak out about mental illness.”
Hero A man is reunited with the stranger who saved his life.