found mike
March 13, 2014 8:36 AM   Subscribe

A videoblogger from the U.K. named Jonny Benjamin started a social media campaign called #FindMike to track down the stranger who convinced him not to end his life in 2008.

Earlier this year, Benjamin found "Mike" (whose real name is Neil Laybourn) with help of Rethink Mental Illness, the organization that helped launch Benjamin's search. In the video, you can watch their heartwarming reunion.
posted by yeoz (6 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
This is such a great story. Reminds me of when I was depressed.

I was a stupid teenager. Life wasn't the roses it had been and I had been slowly spiraling down into depression. In desperation, I sent a text to my increasingly distant boyfriend (because his girlfriend was crazy, needy and overly clingy), that I wanted to break up. I expected him to put up a fight, but he didn't. I was devastated. My Mom took me to the ER because we both feared that I might kill myself.

The nice people at the hospital stuck me and my Mom in a quiet room away from the main waiting area. Inside was also a man. This man, I learned through quiet conversation that he and my mother struck up, had just lost his brother. His brother died and he was sitting in that room to compose himself and wait for his family.

My mother explained that we were at the hospital because I was suicidal. The man looked at me, and he said that I was beautiful. I had never felt beautiful in my entire life, and this total stranger saying that I was struck a deep cord within me. It still does, even though it's been over ten years.

It was the magic words I needed to hear, to put a bandaid on my feelings. It took time to sink in. I'm sure the hospital staff thought I was just seeking attention, because by the time I was called in to see a doctor I was smiling and mom and I were joking. I didn't feel suicidal anymore.

I always feel a strange bittersweet feeling whenever I think about that man. I am not very religious, but I don't think it was just coincidence he was in that room and said the exact thing he needed to say to help me.
posted by royalsong at 9:39 AM on March 13, 2014 [16 favorites]

What a great story, thanks for sharing.

A few years ago in my town, a woman threw her 2 toddlers and herself off a bridge. She survived. In her statement to police, she said she had decided on the walk to the bridge that if anyone acted kindly or even smiled at them, it would be proof the world wasn't as hostile as she thought, and she would turn around and take the kids home. It really reinforced to me the idea of being kind because everyone you meet is fighting a difficult battle. I hope if I ever encounter someone in a crisis situation I will manage to be helpful and not frozen in place.

and darn it, how did all this dust get in my eyes?
posted by superna at 9:39 AM on March 13, 2014 [2 favorites]

Kindness should never be in short supply, but too often, it is.

I don't care what kind of a lousy day I am having, I really try to get over it because I would hate to have been blind to someone else's suffering and just tapped the final nail in their coffin, no matter how unintentional.

When it comes to feelings, the power to create is a far better gift than the one that destroys.

Thank you for sharing this link...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:31 AM on March 13, 2014

I read about this a few weeks ago...I had thought it was here on Metafilter, but clearly it wasn't. Very touching, and I am glad he found the stranger who helped him. I'm also glad he is doing better and using his own experiences to advocate for others.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:06 AM on March 13, 2014

This seems a bit like stalking behavior. I hope the idea doesn't spread.

Having worked on a crisis line for many years, I don't ever want any of the people I helped anonymously to find or identify me. We helped a lot of people who were in temporary crisis, but we also helped a lot of people with deeper, more chronic problems, and our anonymity shielded us from some of the dependence, obsession, and transference that occasionally occurred.
posted by kanewai at 11:51 AM on March 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am a currently homeless woman. Long before I became homeless, I had a class on homelessness. A really high percentage of street people are male and a lot of them are treated in a very dehumanizing fashion on a routine basis. The summer after my class on homelessness, I attended college in Riverside California. I was a pretty soft touch for pan handlers at that time. The one incident that most stands out in my mind is the guy who approached me as I came out of a building. I stopped and turned to him. He said something like "Dang. You stopped and looked at me. Most people just keep walking and won't even acknowledge I exist."

I am on the street with my two sons and I am fairly often mistaken for being a tourist or for being middle class. A lot of people do not realize I am homeless. So I am subjected to a great deal less of the kind of social isolation that many street people endure daily. When men on the street realize I am homeless, a lot of them decide I am in their "price range" (or something) and try to hit on me. I try to not be part of the problem. I try to not be one of those people who treats these men in such a dehumanizing fashion as to not even acknowledge them. One man responded to this by telling me one day "I love you Michele. I want to marry Michele."

I have a lot of sympathy for kanewai's point, above. I was discussing this issue -- of people latching onto me crazily -- with my sons the other day. They commented on how common it is to see stories where being nice to someone resulted in them latching onto someone, becoming an unwanted New Best Friend, etc. The commented that you see far fewer stories of being nice and it paying off.

However, I am 48 and I have a lot of experience with getting this type of extreme fan-like or obsessed response from people. I go way back with it, well before I was on the street. So I have learned how to neither be rejecting and hurtful and in the face of it nor inadvertently encourage more of it. I currently have the above mentioned homeless man backed down to saying "God bless you Michele" whenever he runs into me. So I feel pretty good about helping to normalize his social situation a hair. We are still on speaking terms and nothing crazy has happened for me having, gasp, spoken to him and treated him like a human being for 30 seconds one day.

So I personally hope the thing people take away from this FPP is not that it is okay to track someone down who may not want to be tracked down but, instead, that perhaps we should all try a little harder to treat others around us decently so that one small kind act is not such a big fucking deal as to inspire this kind of response. If genuine kindness and "common human decency" were more common, there would be fewer suicidal people and fewer people so emotionally battered by life as to respond in an obsessed, fanlike fashion when they do run into someone just trying to be nice.

Thank you yeoz for posting this.
posted by Michele in California at 2:13 PM on March 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

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