Six years ago, CALM supporter and vocal advocate for de-stigmatising mental health, Jonny Benjamin, was talked out of jumping off a bridge in London by a passing stranger. Today he is launching a search to find him, on the sixth anniversary of the incident.
On 14th January 2008, Jonny Benjamin was on the verge of taking his own life after being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder.
The then 20-year-old climbed onto a ledge and was about to jump from Waterloo bridge when a he was approached by a passerby who changed his life.
The man managed to persuade Jonny to climb back over the railings, where police were waiting to take him back to safety. Jonny didn’t get the chance to find out who the man was and doesn’t even know his name.
Since then, Jonny has learnt to manage his illness and is now a hugely successful video blogger and spokes person for raising awareness of mental health issues, sharing his story of hope and recovery with hundreds of thousands of people across the world.
Jonny is also an ambassador for the charity Rethink Mental Illness which is helping him launch his public appeal today.
You can watch him talking about the campaign on ITV’s Daybreak HERE
He is making a documentary film about his search, which he hopes will inspire other people who are struggling with mental health problems.
Jonny says: “The empathy, belief and determination that passerby showed me, gave me hope. I can’t remember much about how he looked but he seemed to be a few years older than me and was on his way to work.
“He looked like someone who was leading a normal life, which was something I really wanted at that point. He told me he’d felt the same way as me in the past, but had got better.
“His act of kindness changed my outlook on life and I have thought about him ever since. I want to find this man so I can thank him for what he did. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”
Paul Jenkins, CEO of the charity Rethink Mental Illness said: “We are so proud to have Jonny as an ambassador. He’s an inspirational person who has done so much to reach out to others, and let them know that it can get better and that you can recover from mental illness. We will be doing everything we can to support him in his search.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is also backing the campaign. He said: “I hope Jonny’s inspiring story will highlight the fact that mental health is everybody’s business – in this case the compassion of a stranger helped to save a life.
“Facing up to a mental health problem is hard for the person suffering, often in silence. But it is a challenge to everyone else to support them, just as you would with any other health problem.”
Jonny will start by returning to the same spot on the bridge today to hand out flyers to Londoners, appealing for the man to get in touch.
If you have any information which may help Jonny, or would like to help spread the word about his search, visit Rethink.org