On a cold day in January 2008, 20-year-old Jonny Benjamin stood on a bridge in central London about to jump to his death. A passing stranger stopped and talked to Jonny, saving his life. Six years later Jonny, together with Rethink Mental Illness, launched the #FindMike campaign to try to find that stranger on the bridge so Jonny could finally thank him. What happened next surprised everyone...
The #FindMike campaign was launched on 14 January 2014 when a short video clip of Jonny standing on Waterloo Bridge was shared on Facebook and Twitter by Rethink Mental Illness. Within 24 hours the clip had been shared 43,000 times and viewed more than a million times.
By the next morning, the campaign had been picked up by ITV’s breakfast TV show Daybreak who ran it exclusively for the next two days, propelling the campaign across the UK. Soon Rethink Mental Illness started receiving messages from people who thought they knew someone who might be ‘Mike’.
As the #FindMike campaign gained momentum it drew the attention of the world press, and Jonny’s story appeared on TV shows in the USA, Canada, Australia and Germany. Many celebrities also got involved in the search to help #FindMike, including Stephen Fry, Boy George, Kate Nash and Nick Clegg.
Just two weeks after the campaign began, after several false leads and dead ends, it became clear that the real ‘Mike’ (or Neil, as he is actually called!) had been found. Neil Laybourn had been walking across Waterloo Bridge to work when he last saw Jonny six years earlier. The two men were reunited in an emotional moment that touched and inspired people around the world. #FindMike had become a global phenomenon and marked the start of a friendship between the pair, who have since become ambassadors for improved understanding around mental illness and suicide prevention.
Jonny and Neil now work tirelessly to campaign for people with mental illness and in 2015 they launched their own teaching campaign based on #FindMike and their story has been turned into a Channel 4 film. Jonny is now one of the United Kindgom’s best known and most influential mental health campaigners.
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