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It's A Wonderful Life, Mike!

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If someone would have said to me exactly six years ago that that today I would be describing life as wonderful, I would truly never have believed them. Having just been diagnosed aged 20 with schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and depression, my life and indeed my future looked anything but wonderful. In fact, it looked so bleak that I decided I could I could not carry on with it any longer.

I had never heard a single positive story of recovery from schizophrenia. I couldn't come to terms with the diagnosis, nor the fact that the voice of the devil I was hearing or the delusion I was in my own version of The Truman Show were "all in my head." It simply felt like there was no life after diagnosis.

So on 14 January 2008 I travelled to Waterloo Bridge to take my life. It was a bitterly cold, grey Monday morning and the rain was beginning to fall when I stepped onto the edge of the bridge, ready to jump.

I can't remember all the many thoughts and feelings buzzing around my mind as I stood there looking down to the water below. All I can recall is a feeling of total despair. The very next minute of my existence seemed too painful to bear.

I don't know how long I was standing there for before I heard a man's voice behind me say:

"Please mate, please don't do this."

At first I ignored it and tried not to engage with him. But it went on:

"Let's go for a coffee. You and me. We can talk this over."

The invitation changed something in me. Here was a total stranger I'd never met before that was showing me such extraordinary kindness by wanting to reach out and help me. He was persistent, but gentle and calm.

"You can get through this, I know you can. You don't have to do this."

These were the words that lead me turn to see his face. He was just a few years older than me, this young man who looked like he was on his way to work.

No-one had ever said it would get better. It was such a simple message of hope and it was something that began to infiltrate through the disarray of my mind as he kept repeating those words.

Suddenly I no longer felt alone. I had given no clue to family or friends about my intentions that day. I was so ashamed of my suicidal thoughts and feelings and I couldn't bring myself to vocalise them to anyone. Yet here was a man I'd never met before not only trying to connect with me without judgement, but offering me a picture of hope for the future as well.

I started to tell him how I was feeling as best as I could explain. He listened intently, and it felt like he had an understanding of the turmoil in my mind. The offer of the coffee seemed more and more inviting and eventually I agreed to go with him.

Helping me off the edge, I noticed a police car and ambulance parked behind me on the bridge. Before I knew it I was being apprehended by two police officers who lead me into the back of their car. This was the last time I saw the stranger unfortunately. From the police car I was taken into the ambulance, driven to St Thomas Hospital and sectioned.

I never got a chance to say thank-you to the Good Samaritan on the bridge. Ultimately he changed my life. I now had a new outlook on my illness and I believed for the first time that actually, I could overcome it.

Recovery was very gradual. But the stranger's positive words echoed in my ears constantly.

I've learnt how to manage my mental illness now. It's tough at times for sure, but after many years I'm finally in a place where I can talk openly about it. I've become an ambassador for Rethink Mental Illness and an award-winning mental health campaigner. I create vlogs about schizophrenia which have been watched by hundreds of thousands of people across the world. I try to give people hope, just like the stranger helped me.

This week I launched the campaign #findMike to try to find and thank him. I'm not even sure if that's his real name; I don't remember too much about him unfortunately because I was so distressed at the time. Even if it's not successful though, I hope it will raise awareness of suicide, the biggest killer of young men in this country. I also want to help erase the stigma attached to schizophrenia and show people that it is possible to overcome any adversity. But if he does get to see the campaign, I'd really like him to know that mine is now a wonderful life, and it's all down to you, Mike.

Visit Jonny's YouTube page at youtube.com/johnjusthuman

For more information on the #findMike campaign, please visit rethink.org

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