The Stranger on The Bridge.
“As I walked into the middle of the bridge, I was oblivious to the stream of commuters walking past me. And in turn, the commuters were seemingly oblivious to me- the man teetering on the edge. All except for one” Jonny Benjamin MBE
On Thursday 7th March, I attended an evening that was put on by the University of Surrey. The event was to mark University Mental Health Day. Over the years I have become increasingly overwhelmed by how much interest this subject has generated in the last few years.
Having suffered with depression and anxiety for several years in the late teens, I remember feeling very isolated with the feelings I was having. I did not really know where or who to turn to. When I began to suffer again in my mid-twenties, I realized how much more support and help there was out there.
As I walked into the building there were a row of stalls, all there for one reason. To let people, know that they are not alone and that there are people out there to help and understand the fundamental elements of mental health, and therefore are equipped to support those having to try and cope with it.
The Samaritans, Oakleaf Enterprises and Talk Mental health, to name but a few, had banners and information that students could take. There were numbers to call and websites for students to visit when they needed a helping hand. It was not just students who attended the evening. It was a complete mix of people who were all there with one common goal. To find out more information on Mental Health.
All the exhibitors were approachable and calming when interacting with the crowd of people who wanted more information on what can be, a sensitive issue. The atmosphere was welcoming and relaxed and I felt it as I spoke with a few people who had come along.
The main event of the evening was a talk from Jonny Benjamin and Neil Laybourn. The remarkable story of “The Stranger on The Bridge,” for those of you who don’t know the tale, Jonny is an award-winning mental health campaigner, film producer, public speaker, writer and vlogger. Neil Laybourn is the man who saved his life. After being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder (a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar) Jonny was in despair and he was on his way to Waterloo Bridge to take his own life when Neil stopped and spoke to him.
Six years after the event they were reunited. Since then they have worked together campaigning on TV, radio and in print around the world to help educate and break stigma still surrounding mental health. I won’t go into too much detail so as not to spoil the book if you haven’t read it yet. If you haven’t, trust me, you should!
Thousands of people are affected by Mental Health issues, and from personal experience, it can be the loneliest feeling in the world when you are in the depths of it. After the talk there was time to a question and answer section, people were so forthcoming about their experiences. It was raw, honest and astounding to hear the stories of hope and recovery. As well as hearing from people who are still on the journey to recovery.
THERE ARE PEOPLE TO HELP YOU. I cannot stress this enough.
The evening was a real eye opener for me personally; there are so many people going through turmoil in their day to day life and wanting more information on how to cope with it all. Thank you, University of Surrey, for a very emotional, but very informative evening.
The Samaritans– 01483 405555
Oakleaf Enterprise- firstname.lastname@example.org 01483 303649
Talk Mental Health –email@example.com (for mental health presentations in schools and young adults.)