Toronto man uses social media to track down stranger who saved his life in 2002

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News
Mark Henick reads "A letter from Mike."

In 2002, Mark Henick was a teenager struggling with depression in Sydney, Nova Scotia.

Late one night, he walked to an overpass in his hometown with every intention of jumping to his death.

"I had already climbed over the railing and I remember this person coming up behind me — this man and I didn’t see his face and I don’t really remember what we talked about but I remember he was wearing a light brown jacket and he was a little taller than me. He just talked to me,” Henick told the Cape Breton Post.

"He didn’t try to solve all my problems or give me any magic solutions or anything, we just talked like any two people meeting on an overpass in Cape Breton."

Soon emergency crews arrived, and a small crowd gathered at the scene. One man taunted Henick, calling him a coward and shouting for him to jump.

"There’s this guy on one of the ends (of the overpass), who, from the barricade shouted for me to jump, that I was a coward and that I should kill myself. So it was a really powerful image for me to have this one complete stranger standing right next to me supporting me and then have this other complete stranger who was literally pushing me over the edge,” he recalled.

Henick let go of the railing and started to fall to the ground below.

Fortunately, the man in the light brown jacket reached around Henick’s chest just in time. and pulled him from the edge.

Henick never saw the man’s face, but told CBC News that the man didn’t just save his life, it changed it.

"That was really the moment that I realized that I could be that person. I could reach out and help people … so that’s what I do now," said Henick.

Henick, now 27, is married with a wife and son. He works for the Ontario division of the Canadian Mental Health Association in Toronto. He’s on the board of the Mental Health Commission of Canada and regularly gives talks about mental health issues.

"When I speak professionally and do my advocacy thing, I talk a lot about him, having never known who he was," Henick said. “I talk about that example of being the person who reaches out, whether it’s as dramatic as pulling somebody off a bridge or just reaching out emotionally and connecting with people. That’s how we make a difference.

"That’s how we change the world. "

A 2013 TED Talk Henick gave titled “Why We Choose Suicide” has been viewed over 800,000 times.

Last week, Henick decided to try to track down the man who saved his life more than a decade ago.

"I had been thinking about doing this for a while. I had even told people that, you know, if I find him, I don’t know what I’m going to say. For some reason, it doesn’t feel like thank you is enough," said Henick.

“Everything since then has gotten so much better. I have such a happy and fulfilled life now and I really owe it all to that couple of minutes with that stranger,” he told CTV’s Canada AM.

Thanks to social media, Henick’s search didn’t take long. Within a few hours, two different people who knew the man contacted Henick — and told him that the man was also looking for him.

"Somebody told me that he came across the TED Talk that I did in 2013 … And he just saw it, apparently, for the first time within the last week or so. And he, with the help of some others I’m told, has been working on a letter to me," said Henick.

Watch Henick read “a letter from Mike” below.