In a heart warming end to a harrowing, but uplifting tale, a gay, Jewish man has been reunited with a man who saved his life after he attempted to commit suicide in part to do with his struggle to accept his sexuality.
Jonathan Benjamin started the FindMike campaign, which aims to raise awareness of suicide and provide a message of hope to anyone who may be struggling.
One of the aims of his campaign was to find a man named Mike (who actually turned out to be called Neil), who stopped Mr Bejamin, who has a schizoaffective disorder, from jumping of Waterloo bridge six years ago.
Benjamin said: “The campaign has been a huge success. During the course of it, I began to recall what exactly led me to attempting suicide: one of the main reasons was my struggle to accept my sexuality.”
In a blog post for the Huffington Post, Benjamin reflected on coming to terms with being gay and Jewish, and the “sense of shame” he had felt since being a child for his same-sex attraction.
“I was sitting in a restaurant at the time celebrating a family member’s birthday when a male waiter caught my attention and I began to feel attracted towards him. I don’t recall too much about him, but what I do remember was an enormous sense of shame.
“Being Jewish, I was taught that homosexuality was a sin from an early age; I quickly buried the memory of that evening and tried to deny the existence of those feelings throughout my teenage years.”
He goes on to discuss being asked by a psychiatrist whether he had experienced same-sex attraction, which at the time, he denied.
“My immediate thought was: ‘I’m going to kill myself.'”, he writes, going on to say that he eventually came to terms with being gay when he was asked by his psychiatrist later.
He concludes: “I will continue my work to raise awareness of mental illness and suicide in particular, now that the #findMike campaign has reached its resolution. The aim of it was not just to find the stranger on the bridge, but to give others the same message which Neil gave to me that “It is possible to overcome any adversity in life.”
“Such a message seems rather futile for a young, gay individual in a country like Russia, but it I share it anyway in the hope it may reach at least one person who might be struggling about coming to terms with their sexuality or any other issue they might face. As I know first-hand, the impact of someone planting even the tiniest seed of hope can have a profound impact upon the mind that had none before.”
Saying he felt like he had “won the lottery” when the pair were reunited earlier this week, Benjamin said: “I’m totally elated…It means the world to me to finally have the opportunity to say thank you.”
Neil said he had often thought about Jonathan, and that he had wondered if he had been okay after the incident.“We’ll definitely stay in touch,” he said.
A video feauturing the pair after being reunited is available to view below: