#FindMike reunites depressed man with his Rescuer
by FFE EU News Staff
26-year-old Jonny Benjamin was ready to jump off the Waterloo Bridge in January 2008 when a stranger approached him and asked why he was there. Six years after that life-changing day, Jonny once again comes face to face with his rescuer all thanks to social media.
Jonny is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a mental ailment which affects one in 200 people. At that time on the bridge, Jonny felt he was at his lowest point and was ready to end his life.
Enter 31-year-old Neil Laybourn, a London commuter who always passes by the bridge. Upon seeing Jonny, Neil recognised a man in desperate need of help and approached him.
Neil recalled that ‘It was a very cold day, a very windy day, and Jonny just had a T-shirt on and was sitting over the edge of the bridge and it was glaringly obvious why he was there.
‘I walked up around him and just calmly approached him and I said: “Hi mate, can you tell me why you’re sitting on the bridge?”
‘I just kept asking him questions and wanted to engage him and that if he wanted to talk I was there.’
Meanwhile, Jonny said ‘All I remember was standing on the edge of the bridge and this guy just coming up to me out of nowhere.
‘The pivotal moment for me was when he said “you can get through this, you can get better” because up until that point no-one had said it would get better.’
Neil invited Jonny for coffee that day, but this never pushed through as Jonny was soon escorted away by police. He remembered not even being able to say thank you to Neil.
The abrupt separation caused Jonny to launch the #FindMike campaign to finally search for the man who changed his life.
Jonny starts the #FindMike campaign 13 January 2014
#FindMike trended in Canada, South Africa and Australia for a week. It was Neil’s fiancée who finally saw the viral Twitter campaign. After learning about the campaign, Neil got in touch with Jonny, who is also a vlogger, as soon as he could.
The reunion was emotional. Neil said ‘It was incredible [meeting Jonny], really nice, very emotional for both of us and really nice to have a conclusion to it and to hear Johnny’s side of things that day.’
Jonny meanwhile said ‘When I went to the bridge I was so embarrassed about what I was going through, I couldn’t tell anyone, but that simple act of telling Neil and having him listen made all the difference.
‘I feel like I’ve won the lottery – I’m totally elated. It means the world to me to finally have the opportunity to say thank you.’
Jonny is active in raising awareness on suicide, schizophrenia and other issues faced by people with mental illness. His vlog channel in YouTube gives insights on the life of those affected by illnesses like schizoaffective disorder.
Jonny on mental illness: ‘We’re not all dangerous, or violent as some people would have you believe.’