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Issue 10; The Stranger on the Bridge by Jonny Benjamin - The Review

By T W Coombs

As you may not know but I am very into my Mental Health and getting men in particular to talk about the stress in there lives and dealing with problems to stop them taking their lives as every year so many do and it also can be stopped.  So when Hearst Publishers asked me to read and give my opinion on ‘The Stranger on the Bridge’ by Jonny Benjamin I couldn’t say no and here we are.  As part of Hearst Big Book Festival the Big Book Awards runs across the styles that their publications hit.  Men's Health had three on the viewing board and this stood out amongst the others.

The story is simple and true.  Jonny Benjamin was on Waterloo Bridge, ready to jump to his death after deciding it was the only way.  And someone stopped him by talking to him, but then Jonny was dragged off back to Hospital and that was it, until years later, when they met once again.

If you are big user of social media, twitter and a big media sponge, then you may remember the #FindMike campaign run by Jonny and others to find the stranger that helped him that day and ‘help’ is the correct term.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to get from this book but considering the subject I thought it may be interesting if nothing else.  What I did get though  was an extremely insightful trip into the mind of someone with Mental Health issues and learnt so much from this one man who is dealing with his mental health by telling others his story and campaigning for more to be done for Mental Health.  From him and the Stranger, when they did find him, it gives you hope for the human race, firstly that this saved soul is using his second chance to help a nation and world who have been hiding from mental health or more hiding the problem away and the Stranger who gives us hope in humanity as a whole.

Even though on that day when Jonny nearly did something I am very happy he didn’t, the hundreds of people that must have walked past and did nothing, what is the matter with our world, but thankfully one person did and together years later I hope they have changed the lives of others by bringing the story forward.  And this book is certainly one way to do that.

Jonny Benjamin even though very open about his own problems hasn’t written just a sad tale and some parts are amusing with its easy going language, even when talking about his earlier life where he thought it was normal to have a voice in his head.  This is no comedy but it has been portrayed as a drama, with tales of normality within the hectic mind, it is just one man's story of discovery and help and is at times very candid.  It showed me details I had not realised that I didn’t understand, like Jonny’s condition which I had so many misconceptions of what was going on in the head of anyone like him.

So to Jonny I thank you and by reading his story and the information given in the final parts about what he has found out about the state of out Health system when it comes down to Mental Health is just sad to hear and glad there is so much being done. And hopefully it will push us to do more, including myself. Even down to just stopping when you see someone doing something they don’t need to and grabbing a coffee instead for a chat.

An amazing thought provoking book, written so well that I just couldn't stop reading it at times.  It was more like a conversation where I didn't need to say anything. And even though Jonny will never, lets say recover, from his condition (even though I hope in the future this is possible) I wish him all the best and hope he keeps well.

‘The Stranger on the Bridge : My Journey from Despair to Hope’ by Jonny Benjamin (& Britt Pfluger) is due out on May 3rd, so please buy it and spread the message, you can pre-order from Amazon here.