Set­ting out to find the man who saved his life

Macclesfield Express - - TVWEEK -

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.

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