Neil Laybourn

When Jonny Benjamin sat on the edge of Waterloo Bridge, about to jump into the icy Thames to end his life, hundreds of Londoners walked past.

 

“I don’t really remember much of the day,” Jonny says. “I just know I was on the bridge ready to jump when I heard this voice from behind.”

One man had stopped, his simple act of kindness not only saving Jonny’s life, but also sparking an inspirational mental health campaign.

Not knowing his saviour’s name, Jonny nicknamed him Mike, and six years after that cold January morning in 2008, he launched #FindMike on social media to track him down so he could say thanks.

Neil Laybourn’s fiancée spotted the campaign on Facebook, and realised “Mike” was Neil, who had told her about the incident when he got home from work that day.

Neil and Jonny were reunited, and started working together to raise awareness of mental health issues.

The trauma began for Jonny in December 2007 when he was diagnosed with a form of schizophrenia and hospitalised.

As the New Year came, Jonny’s sense of desperation deepened, along with a fear that he would never understand or cope with his condition.

On January 14, aged just 20, he walked out of hospital and went to Waterloo Bridge intent on killing himself.

As hundreds of busy Londoners walked past, Neil, now 31, stopped and began talking to Jonny, listened to his fears and offered to buy him a cup of coffee.

Neil says: “I was on my way to work at a health club in the Strand. I’d done the same journey every day for three months and it was a normal commute. I remember getting onto the bridge and seeing someone sitting on the edge. As I got closer alarm bells were ringing and it was clear something was up.”

Jonny was on the bridge in just a T-shirt. Neil says:

I had a sense it might be serious and I wanted to speak to him. There might be an innocent explanation, but I couldn’t live with myself if I heard later something had happened. I approached him and said, ‘Hello, can you tell me what you are doing on the side of the bridge’? He just looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to end my life today’.

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