Things seemed to get worse and worse in hospital. When I turned 21, I ran away from the ward. I gave up. I didn’t see any way forward and thought I’d be stuck with my illness forever. I thought I’d be a burden on everyone, so I made a plan to end it all. Thankfully, when I got to the bridge and stepped over the edge, a stranger walking past came and stood next to me. He was a young guy, a few years older than me. There was something about him – I felt a connection and he listened in a way that I hadn’t been listened to before. He was calm, grounded and open. He wanted to listen and wanted me to open up. In the hospital, people didn’t have time to listen, but this guy made me feel at ease. He was so positive, “Mate, you will be all right. You will get better.” In the hospital, they told me they didn’t know what would happen because I was so unwell. With this stranger, I really believed he thought I would be okay. He managed to get me away from the edge of the bridge.
We had a really powerful conversation, and he convinced me to go for a coffee. I’d found someone I could talk to; I felt safe with him. However, we didn’t get to go for the coffee as someone had called the police. Once I’d gotten away from the edge, they charged in. I tried to run away, but was restrained and handcuffed. That was the last I saw of the stranger, at that time. I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and was taken back to the hospital.
For the first time I felt a little bit of hope. The man had been so positive with me about the future, which I really needed at the time. I ended up staying at the hospital for a while, and was eventually discharged. For the next six years, I worked on my mental health and focused on getting better. But I needed to resolve some of the issues from my past – I was struggling with my sexuality and what that meant growing up Jewish. I needed to resolve that and come out as gay, plus address my own mental health, and not to hide it anymore. It wasn’t a quick solution, but medication and therapy got me back on track. It took about six years to get to a point where I was ready to start talking.
In 2014 I launched a campaign to find the stranger on the bridge. I wasn’t 100% sure of his name. I remembered parts of our conversation, and I thought his name was Mike. I wanted to raise awareness for mental health, and suicide in particular, which is such a difficult thing to address, particularly for men. I launched the #FindMike campaign to try and find him, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to reach him. He could have been anywhere. However, I thought if the campaign reached someone else and helped them, that alone would be worth it.
We didn’t know how people were going to respond. Social media can be difficult at times, but everyone seemed really positive and wanted to get behind the search. I received messages from people around the world who shared their experiences – they’d either been in my position or had talked someone else out of suicide. There were also some heart-breaking stories, including lots of people who came forward to say they’d lost brothers, sons or fathers. Three quarters of all suicides in the UK are men. It was really moving.