It was a chilly January morning when Jonny Benjamin finally lost all hope.
He sneaked out of the hospital where he was receiving treatment for a mental illness, boarded a train to central London, and walked onto Waterloo Bridge.
Climbing over the railings and staring down at the icy water of the Thames, he fully intended to jump.
Then a passer-by approached him. The man was on his way to work but had spotted Mr Benjamin and guessed what he was about to do.
The man started talking, inviting Mr Benjamin join him for a chat at a nearby coffee shop. He took Mr Benjamin’s hand and helped him back onto the pavement.
The unexpected gesture, exactly six years ago on Tuesday, saved the former JFS student’s life.
Now Mr Benjamin, who was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder — a form of schizophrenia — a month before he attempted to kill himself, wants to say thank you to the kind-hearted stranger who talked him off the bridge.
“I ran away from the hospital to take my life,” said Mr Benjamin, who is now a mental health campaigner and video blogger. “I felt I wasn’t getting any better and couldn’t accept the diagnosis — there’s such a stigma around schizophrenia.
“I had suicidal thoughts in the past, but this was the first time I intended to go through with it. Life was just unbearable.
“The stranger started talking to me. He said: ‘Please, don’t take your life, it gets better. Let’s go for a coffee and talk’.
“That was a turning point. The idea of coffee was really appealing — a reminder of everyday life. I felt safe with him and just wanted to talk. I started to think that it’s possible to overcome anything.”
Mr Benjamin, who at the time was a 20-year-old final-year drama student at Manchester Metropolitan University and completed his degree a year later, has launched the Find Mike campaign.
“At the time I was so distressed, I didn’t get his name, so I’ve decided to call him Mike,” said Mr Benjamin, who lives in Stanmore and attends Edgware Reform Synagogue.
“Now I’ve come to terms with my mental illness, I want to say ‘thank you, so much’ and that I’ve achieved all this because of him.”
Mr Benjamin, who has worked with the Jewish Association for the Mentally Ill, is making a film about his search for Mike, with the Rethink Mental Illness charity, which will be released in April.
“We’ve already received thousands of emails and I hope we find him by then.”