A Jewish man whose battle against mental illness has been documented by the BBC has launched a search to find the stranger who stopped him from jumping off Waterloo Bridge, writes Dean Joseph.
Former JFS pupil Jonny Benjamin, 26, who was diagnosed with depression and schizophrenia two weeks before the incident six years ago, credits the mystery man with talking him down from the bridge and for the turnaround in his life that followed.
The Edgware and District Reform Synagogue member told the Jewish News: “He offered to go for a coffee and talk it over and it was his empathy that made me stop. It was those words that startled me and made me think that I can actually get through this.”
The stranger who helped him that January morning in 2008, is described as being in his early twenties, but details are scarce.
“I can’t remember much about how he looked,” Jonny says. “He seemed to be a few years older than me and was on his way to work.”
However, the man’s intervention has left a lasting impression. “Him standing and spending his time talking to me made the difference,” said Jonny.
“He let me see a different perspective and he gave me hope.”
Six years later, Jonny lives and works in Manchester but returned to the bridge to hand out flyers in an effort to locate the stranger.
“I want to show him that I am in a good place because of his actions that day, it has taken me a while to get there but I am here now and I want to spread this message of hope to other people. Now I need help to find him. Locating him would be phenomenal,” he added.
Since the 2008 episode, Jonny says he has made a recovery, learning to manage his mental illness and campaigning on the issue as an ambassador of Rethink Mental Illness.
“There is a massive stigma to combat, particularly within the Jewish community,” he has said.
“Jews tend to think it happens to other people. From my experience, when it comes to the Jewish community and people being ill – whether physical or mental – there’s this idea that you just stay strong, you just get on with your life,” he said.
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