A poignant, heartfelt account of mental illness, and a timely reminder to start talking about it more.
I remember the #FindMike campaign well - the search for the man who stopped Jonny from jumping from Waterloo Bridge. As such, I was well up for reading The Stranger on the Bridge, to hear the story from Jonny Benjamin's perspective and find out what happened after.
The book is an incredibly candid, warmly written account of what it's like to grow up with a mental illness, and how it can drive you to such a dark place. It starts with Jonny's life as a young lad; his childhood delusions and his guilt over his sexuality. Then the book covers the event at the bridge, and details how things haven't been smooth riding since - but that there has been plenty of joy and hope sprinkled in with the despair and depression.
Firstly, huge kudos to the author for speaking out in such a frank, unafraid manner. It never ceases to shock me how as a society, we're fairly comfortable with talking about all manner of physical ailments, yet still so reluctant to admit that we're struggling emotionally or mentally. The very creation of this book will hopefully help to herald a seachange - where people can be just as open about how they're feeling emotionally as they are physically.
Secondly - it's a fascinating and inspiring story. A singular event - one man saving another man's life, can quite literally create shockwaves that reverberate through the years. Their subsequent friendship resulted in them joining forces to speak out about mental illness and to offer support and guidance in schools. Now that really is an achievement to be proud of.
There were also several other sections that had me nodding in agreement - such as the chapter on prisons, and how so many incarcerated people have mental health problems. This resonated deeply with me, based on personal experience of someone I used to know who was imprisoned rather than given the medical support he needed. He later killed himself.
So, in conclusion - well done, Jonny Benjamin - and keep encouraging people to talk about it. It's not 'being a snowflake' to admit that you're struggling emotionally, and it's not 'weak' to ask for help. Bravo.
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