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Jonny Benjamin reunited with ‘Mike’

The stranger who helped save the life of mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin six years ago, has been traced and the two reunited, thanks to an unprecedented international response to Jonny’s appeal.

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Jonny and Neil reunited

Just over two weeks ago, the 26 year-old, who has a form of schizophrenia, launched a campaign with the help of the charity Rethink Mental Illness, to find the man who changed his life. He named the campaign ‘Find Mike’ although he wasn’t sure of the real name of the man he was searching for.The appeal went out on Facebook and Twitter and Jonny gave numerous TV, radio and newspaper interviews. The campaign soon went viral, with the hashtag #Findmike trending in the UK and countries as far afield as Canada, South Africa and Australia. Millions shared his story online and Jonny went on to appear on TV across the world.Celebrities including Stephen Fry, Kate Nash and Boy George tweeted their support and even the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg backed the campaign.One of the millions of people to see the appeal was Neil Laybourn from Surrey, who got in touch with Rethink Mental Illness after his fiancé saw the #Findmike appeal on Facebook and instantly recognised the story.The 31 year-old personal trainer says he knew immediately that he was the stranger Jonny was looking for, “I couldn’t believe it when I saw the campaign, I got in touch straight away. 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, he’s a great bloke and it’s brilliant to see him smiling again. We’ll definitely stay in touch.”

The charity Rethink Mental Illness announced the news early this morning, tweeting a photo of the pair together with the caption ‘@Rethink_ We #foundmike! *Huge* thank you to everyone who shared the #findmike campaign, you made THIS happen’.

Jonny and Neil finally met during an emotional reunion two days ago, and appeared together on ITV1’s Daybreak this morning.

Jonny says “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.

“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. It’s as though I’ve come full circle and that chapter of my life has now closed. He’s such a warm, genuine person – everyone should have a friend like Neil.

“This campaign means so much to me, not only because I’ve found Neil, but I’ve had the opportunity to speak out about mental illness and suicide. I also hope that my story will give hope to other people out there who may be struggling with mental illness. I want everyone to know that you can recover and that things can get better. I also hope people will be inspired by what Neil did. It really shows how the simple act of listening, can be a huge support to someone who struggling with their mental health and we can all learn from that.”

Paul Jenkins, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said: “The overwhelming public support for Jonny and his search has been incredible. It’s captured people’s hearts, not just in the UK, but all over the world. Every single person who shared his appeal has not only helped find ‘Mike’, but has also helped to open up millions of conversations about mental health. This campaign has always been about so much more than Jonny’s story alone. It’s also about starting a national conversation about mental illness and suicide. We don’t talk about these issues enough, but the more we do, the more we break down the stigma that surrounds them.”

Jonny is making a documentary about his search in partnership with Rethink Mental Illness and independent production company, Postcard Productions. The film is expected to be ready this spring and the charity is planning a premiere screening in London.

For more information about Rethink Mental Illness and the Jonny Benjamin film go to facebook.com/rethinkmentalillness

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