This week has seen the culmination of a wonderful campaign that was launched through social media/digital outlets, and saw a once suicidal man trying to find the amazing guy who had talked him down from a ledge on Waterloo Bridge when he was in his darkest moment. Not only has this awesome story brought to light what happened that day, but it has generated an unbelievable amount of coverage and driven a world-wide debate about mental health issues.
The amazing story started in January 2008 when Jonny Benjamin who, after being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, was considering taking his life. A stranger intervened and talked him down with the simple offer of a coffee and a chat, a moment that turned out to be a defining moment in Jonny’s life. Jonny described the intervention as such:
‘He was very calm and said “Please don’t do this, I’ve been where you are and you can get better. Let’s have a coffee and we can talk about this.” He reminded me of what people do every day so the normality of it was really inviting.’
Jonny changed his mind and agreed to climb back over the railings, where police were waiting to help him. After the incident, Jonny realised that in the heat of the moment, he hadn’t thanked the guy who had helped him, and that he had no idea who this man, who’d had such a big affect on his life, was.
In years gone by, that may have been the end of the story. But Jonny had other ideas – six years on, and Jonny is a changed man; he is a campaigner for mental illness and a video blogger who raises awareness for mental health issues, and in December 2013 he set up a campaign through social media outlets, especially Facebook and Twitter, to try and find his savior, who he’d named “mike” with the hashtag #findmike as his tagline. With the support of Rethink Mental Illness Jonny pushed through social, digital, broadcast and print outlets to gain widespread coverage for his story and really caught the imagination of the public.
Earlier this week, on Tuesday 28th January 2014, Jonny found what he was looking for – Neil Laybourn – the man who’d talked him down six years ago, and was able to thank him for his heroics. Jonny said:
‘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.’
Not only is this a fantastic example of social media at it’s strongest – it only took 6 weeks for him to find his man – but also of an individual pushing their message into the public eye through a strategic social media campaign with a tonne of determination and belief.