Six years ago, Jonny Benjamin was about to throw himself to his death off a bridge in London before a stranger intervened and saved him. Now, Benjamin hopes to pay it forward by helping others who are contemplating suicide.
In January, Benjamin, 26, launched an online campaign to find the man who helped him that day, whom he dubbed "Mike." The hashtag #findmike went viral, helping Benjamin track down the man in only two weeks. He since has become good friends with the Good Samaritan from that day, Neil Laybourn, a personal fitness trainer from Surrey, England.
Now a mental health campaigner, Benjamin has now produced a 44-minute YouTube documentary, "Finding Mike," that he hopes will educate others about the high suicide rates and what they can do to help those in need. An average of 3,000 people a day commit suicide around the world, and it's the biggest killer of men under 50 in the United Kingdom, according to Benjamin.
"We want to show people that you can overcome any difficulties in life,'' Benjamin told TODAY.com.
Making the documentary meant Benjamin had to revisit the struggles of 2008, when he was 20 years old. He had been diagnosed with a combination of schizophrenia and depression known as schizoaffective disorder when he nearly took his own life.
"I have to go back over many difficult and challenging things from the past, which is hard,'' Benjamin said. "(Making the documentary) was quite therapeutic in a way to go over it again, and the response has been amazing."
The campaign surrounding the film has already had a tangible effect.
"We did a radio show in London the day before the film launched, and someone emailed in to that show saying, 'You guys stopped me from killing myself,''' Benjamin said. "It's having quite an impact, and it has helped me pay it forward."
That day on the bridge in 2008, Laybourn brought Benjamin to a coffeehouse and talked to him for 25 minutes.
"The littlest thing could change someone's day or their life,'' Benjamin said. "You just never know."
Benjamin also gave some advice on how to help someone struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts.
- Remind them that they're not alone. "Tell them that it's common, and it's quite human to have those occurrences,'' Benjamin said. "You can really be hard on yourself and beat yourself up going through these things, but it happens to a lot of us."
- Have them reach out. "Talk to someone about whatever you're going through, whether it's a family member or friend or a doctor."
- Have them write down their thoughts. "Keep a journal and write everything down, because sometimes it's easier to write down these things rather than to vocalize them. It's just important to get it out, really."