“The Stranger On The Bridge” by Jonny Benjamin tells the story of Jonny’s life, starting with when he was stood on Waterloo Bridge, about to take his own life, and was saved by a passing stranger. The book looks at what led Jonny to this point, in detail, from his childhood to more recent experiences. The book also looks at the story of how Jonny found the stranger who saved his life and the work he, Jonny, has done within mental health campaigning since.
I had this book on pre-order and had been waiting quite a while for its release. I was not disappointed. Jonny is one of my inspirations and this book shows you why. Jonny shows how he has campaigned for better mental health care and education in an attempt to break down stigma. His story is very relatable though and he has detailed how he has struggled as well.
In the book Jonny looks at the relationship between mental health and physical health. In particular he discussed his experience of being diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) and how this impacted on his mental health. He makes what I feel is a good point that mental and physical health are very much linked and that when one declines so can the other. Jonny discusses how medication for his physical health condition had a detrimental effect on his mental health. He is very open and honest in his account, as he is throughout the book.
By looking back on his life, Jonny shows that a mental illness can start early in childhood. He doesn’t blame anyone for his illness but discussed the impact different events had on his mental health. While acknowledging that mental illness can start so young, Jonny also notes that the Children and Adolescent Mental Health services (CAMHs) are in a mess and much needs to be done to improve access to, and care in, these services.
Throughout the book Jonny talks about his campaigning and there are a lot of statistics presented in the book which, to me, shows just how important what Jonny does is. He looks at many different areas where there are acute problems with mental health. I agree a great deal with Jonny’s point that talking isn’t enough and that we need to campaign for better services.
Another part of the book I found highly relatable was when Jonny was discussing the impact having a mental illness can have on your loved ones. It is often under sold just how big an impact it has. Jonny talks about it a lot and how he felt he wanted to protect those closest to him. He made the excellent point that it is possible to love those around you when you feel nothing but hatred for yourself.
An intrinsic part of the book is Neil’s story. Neil is the stranger on the bridge and it is so good that Jonny included Neil’s version of what happened that fateful day. In my opinion this adds to the book.
Overall I would highly recommend reading this book. It is very informative as well as telling a story. It is well written and relatable. If you have read this book feel free to share your views on the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.