I’m a big fan of Jonny Benjamin’s mental health film-making, and wished him well when he started his #findMike social media campaign to seek out the stranger who saved him from suicide a few years ago. I must confess that I didn’t think Jonny would succeed, and was pleasantly surprised when ‘Mike’ (who actually turned out to be called Neil Laybourn) was indeed found.
Jonny’s quest to find Mike is now a movie, produced in conjunction with Rethink Mental Illness.
In mental health we tend to talk a lot about therapeutic modalities – cognitive-behavioural, systemic, psychodynamic and so forth. But actually I think that sometimes causes us to undervalue such simple acts as listening and a kind word in the right place.
With that in mind, don’t forget that the Samaritans are always available on 08457 909090 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rethink’s press release is as follows:
#Findmike search phenomenon turned into film
Tuesday 27 May 2014 – The story of how a mental health campaigner managed to track down a stranger who stopped him from taking his own life on Waterloo Bridge, has been turned into a moving documentary, to be released this week (29 May).
Jonny Benjamin teamed up with the national charity Rethink Mental Illness in January to launch a nationwide search to find the Good Samaritan who talked him out of taking his own life six years ago.
The 27 year-old named the campaign ‘Finding Mike’ although he didn’t know the real name of the man he was searching for.
His search 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 and Jonny went on make TV appearances 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.
After two weeks, 31 year-old personal trainer Neil Laybourn from Surrey came forward and identified himself as the real ‘Mike’ and the pair were reunited.
Rethink Mental Illness and Jonny worked with the independent production company Postcard Productions to capture the whole story on film. The footage has now been turned into a 45 minute documentary, which will be available on the charity’s website from 19:00 GMT on Thursday 29th May.
Jonny, who is a producer on the film, said: “The response to the campaign from the public, both in the UK and around the world was way beyond anything I could have ever imagined when I first set out on this journey. Hundreds of people have been in touch with messages of support and many thousands more shared the campaign - it’s been totally overwhelming. I’m so glad we managed to capture the whole thing on camera and I’m so proud of the film we’ve made.
“For me, this project has always been about more than just finding ‘Mike’, it’s also been about raising awareness of suicide, which takes a life every 40 seconds around the world. I want it to spread a message of hope and for people to see that it is possible to recover from, and learn to manage, a serious mental illness like schizophrenia. I really hope people enjoy the film and that it’ll help other people out there with mental health problems to realise that they are not alone and it is possible to overcome life’s adversities, no matter how bleak things may seem.”
Mark Winstanley, CEO of Rethink Mental Illness said: “Jonny is an incredible ambassador and we’re so proud of him for speaking so openly and honestly about living with mental illness throughout this campaign and in the film.
“Through his search, Jonny sparked a much-needed conversation about mental health and schizophrenia in particular. He challenges so many stereotypes and preconceptions and is living proof that people with schizophrenia can recover and achieve great things.
“We’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who shared Jonny’s story. Not only did you help us find ‘Mike’ but you also played a part in helping to break down the stigma that surrounds mental illness.”
British singer-songwriter Tom Odell is supporting the project. He said: “When I first heard the story of Finding Mike, I felt very moved by it, and when Jonny got in touch I felt very inspired to be involved. Mental illness is a subject that can be uncomfortable to talk about, and I think the wonderful thing about this film, is it approaches the subject with openness and shows that there is help out there if you are suffering.”
American indie-folk band Bon Iver are also supporting the project and have donated a track which is used in the film.
There will be a premiere screening of the documentary at the British Film Institute in London on Thursday 29 May, which is sponsored by Legal & General.
Jim Islam, Executive Managing Director, Corporate business of Legal & General Assurance Society said: “The film is a great example of how in times of crisis it can take just one person to make a difference and that every day does really matter. Our experience, across our many business customers, shows that mental illness is the single biggest cause of long term absence. That’s why wherever possible we provide our customer’s employees who are diagnosed with a mental illness, prompt access to the most suitable treatment to help facilitate a swift recovery.
“We are proud to support the Rethink Mental Illness ‘Finding Mike’ film event and the important work they do helping to raise awareness and providing support for mental health illness. We wish Jonny and the Rethink Mental Illness team a successful evening in raising further awareness of mental health issues so the stigma attached to mental illness is broken down.”