I’ll be wearing waterproof mascara tonight. I’ve a feeling it’s going to get emotional.
I can’t remember exactly where I was when I first heard about the #FindMike campaign. I do know that one day I said to my partner Tom, “That looks like Jonny Benjamin on our telly!” A wonderful vlogger, Jonny is well known in the mental health community and I have the greatest of respect for his work as activist – but I wasn’t expecting to see him on TV.
Sure enough, there he was, talking about a campaign called “Find Mike”. From that point onward, Jonny seemed to be everywhere. In every interview he gave on national and regional radio and TV he told the same incredible story: years ago a complete stranger intervened with a simple act of kindness on Waterloo Bridge, stopping Jonny from taking his life. Now Jonny and Rethink Mental Illness were launching a joint search for this Good Samaritan, dubbed “Mike”.
I was excited that “one of our own” bloggers/vloggers suddenly had so much coverage in the traditional media, but as you would expect Jonny and Rethink also made best possible use of the internet. The campaign took off with the official Twitter hashtag (#FindMike) trending in the UK and a number of other English-speaking countries. It wasn’t long before celebrities were getting on board, including Stephen Fry, Kate Nash and Boy George and the #FindMike team followed up on social media success with further TV appearances around the world.
While the campaign was at its peak I was training to become a Mental Health First Aid instructor. MHFA specifically addresses how to support someone who is suicidal, and Jonny’s story and the #FindMike campaign cropped up in our group discussion. Since then, I’ve mentioned the search for Mike on a number of mental health training courses and delegates always tell me how very touching they found it.
Clearly, the campaign was successful in the sense of reaching a lot of people and getting them to think and talk about suicide in a non-sensationalist way. But it also succeeded in finding ‘Mike’ – or Neil, as he turned out to be. I thought it brave of Jonny to let his story be used for a huge media campaign, but it was also incredibly brave of Neil to step forward. There followed a media whirlwind in which Jonny and Neil moved from one studio to another, sharing the happy outcome to the appeal.
But it didn’t end there. The whole campaign was captured on camera by Postcard Productions and has been made into a feature-length film, Finding ‘Mike’, backed by the band Bon Iver (who have donated a song to the project) and UK singer-songwriter Tom Odell. Rethink Mental Illness have shared a trailer but are keeping the movie under wraps until its official internet release tonight at 19:00 BST. I am exceptionally lucky – I will be watching the film on the big screen as part of a reception at the British Film Institute, organised by Rethink and sponsored by Legal and General Assurance Society. It will, of course, be fantastic to watch the film on the big screen. But I also get a tremendous kick that so many people from around the world will be watching the amazingly touching story that is Finding ‘Mike’ online.
Be part of #FindMike rethink.org/findmike