On a dreary London day six years ago, Jonny Benjamin decided that life was no longer worth living. He stood on the Waterloo Bridge and tried to kill himself by jumping off. But the kindness of a stranger passing by saved Benjamin’s life. The stranger spoke him off the bridge and became the catalyst for his recovery. Recently, Benjamin decided to become active about finding that kind stranger. He created the “Find Mike” campaign in hopes of getting an opportunity to let him know how that short conversation changed the trajectory of his life.
"He was the first person to give me hope," Benjamin said. "His words actually prompted my recovery."
According to Gawker, Benjamin had recently been diagnosed with chronic schizoaffective disorder prior to standing on the Waterloo Bridge that day. Schizoaffective disorder is a mental health condition that causes patients to experience schizophrenia symptoms combined with a mood disorder like mania or depression. The Mayo Clinic describes the condition as “a mix of mental health conditions that may run a unique course on each affected person.” According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), schizoaffective disorder affects about one in every 100 people. Symptoms of the disorder vary from person to person, but may include: delusions, paranoid thoughts, major depressed moods, and impaired social functioning.
Six years later, Benjamin has learned to better manage his mental illness and has become a mental health campaigner. In a piece for The Huffington Post, Benjamin said that his symptoms actually began at about 10 years old when he realized that he was attracted to the same sex. He buried his feelings in fear that his family wouldn’t accept him. By age 20, Benjamin had become so sick with psychosis that he thought he was possessed by the Devil. “I'm not sure what was tougher at the time: telling people that I had a mental illness, or telling them I was gay,” Benjamin wrote. “Where I grew up, both carried a weight of stigma. Despite this, the very weight on my shoulders began to lift a little every time I told someone about these things.”
At age 27, Benjamin is doing quite well. His campaign to find the good Samaritan who helped save his life became an instant viral sensation. He called the campaign “find Mike” because he didn’t know the stranger’s name, but had always called him “Mike” when he told people his story of survival. Just two days after the campaign started, Neil Laybourn’s fiancée saw Benjamin’s story on Facebook and had an inkling that the kind stranger might have been him.
"I couldn't believe it when I saw the campaign. I got in touch straight away," Laybourn told the MIRROR.CO.UK. "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 okay."
The two reunited this week and have plans to stay in touch. Watch Benjamin’s touching video below: