Pan Macmillan's wellness and lifestyle imprint Bluebird has acquired the memoir of British mental health and LGBT campaigner and vlogger, Jonny Benjamin, describing how he was pulled back from the brink of suicide by a perfect stranger.
In The Stranger on the Bridge, Benjamin will share his journey, from severe depression to recovery and looking forward. Publisher Carole Tonkinson bought world rights to The Stranger on the Bridge in a two-book deal with Benjamin through Britt Pfluger.
The second book in the deal, Book of Hope, will bring together stories from other people's recoveries from mental health issues.
Benjamin, now an ambassador for Rethink Mental Illness and male suicide prevention charity CALM, would have jumped off Waterloo Bridge in London, following a diagnosis and hospital stay for schizoaffective disorder, were it not for a concerned stranger passing by offering words of support and ultimately saving his life.
The episode inspired the #findMike campaign to track down the man whose concern prevented Benjamin from going through with it. The campaign garnered 319m followers on Twitter while the search unfolded, gaining support from Stephen Fry, Boy George and then Prime Minister David Cameron. It also inspired a Channel 4 documentary which aired last year when the real "Mike", Neil Layborn, stepped forward.
The reunited pair met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace to discuss their experience andy subsequently joined the launch of Heads Together, the campaign that the Duke and Duchess are spearheading with Prince Harry to end stigma and change the conversation on mental health.
Benjamin said: "Through my work as a mental health campaigner and visiting places such as schools, hospitals and prisons both here in the UK and abroad in India, I've met thousands of people affected by mental illness and suicide. The shame I felt when I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder at the age of 20 almost led me to end my life. By sharing my journey I hope that this book will help the reader who is suffering in such a way to feel less alone, and ultimately offer them hope that it is possible to overcome the adversity attached to mental illness.”
Tonkinson added: "Jonny’s story touched us deeply. With suicide—especially in young men—on the rise and a deepening mental health crisis in the UK and beyond, Jonny’s book is coming at an important time. Jonny is an absolute inspiration and I know that his book will be in effect a ‘stranger on the bridge’ to many, offering hope and connection to those who feel in a dark, lonely place. Bluebird could not be more proud to be his publisher.”
Publishing on the topic of mental health has been on the rise, The Bookseller reported earlier this year, with publishers including Tonkinson commenting that the trend reflected "a real culture change in the UK", as campaigners' efforts to tackle the stigma surrounding mental health begin to pay off.