The story of how a mental health campaigner managed to track down a stranger who stopped him from taking his own life six years ago has been turned into a documentary film by charity Rethink Mental Illness.
Jonny Benjamin teamed up with Rethink Mental Illness in January to launch a nationwide search to find the man who talked him out of taking his own life. Once the campaign went viral, with support on Twitter from the likes of Stephen Fry and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, 31-year-old personal trainer Neil Laybourn from Surrey came forward and identified himself as the real ‘Mike’.
Rethink Mental Illness and Benjamin then worked with independent production company Postcard Productions to capture the whole story on film, a trailer for which you watch below ahead of the full release on 29 May:
Raising suicide awareness
Benjamin, who is also 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.”
Much-needed conversation about mental health
There will be a premiere screening of the documentary at the British Film Institute in London on May 29, which is sponsored by Legal & General. Jim Islam, Legal & General's executive managing director, described the film as "a great example of how, in times of crisis, it can take just one person to make a difference."
Mark Winstanley, chief executive of Rethink Mental Illness, added: “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.
Further reading: Charities and trusts show support for World Suicide Prevention Day
"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.”