A Royal Navy veteran who tried to take his own life after suffering mental health problems is set for an epic coastline tour around Britain in aid of World Mental Health Day.
The journey will be particularly challenging for Andrew, who hasn’t driven further than 100 miles as a result of severe anxiety.
Andrew said: “When I was ill with my mental health, I developed severe anxiety which affected all aspects of my life, one of the biggest impacts was my ability to drive.
“Over a number of years the anxiety became much worse, it seemed as though the distance of where I could drive was becoming smaller and smaller.
“The anxiety became so acute that eventually I could no longer drive.”
“The anxiety became so acute that eventually I could no longer drive.
“No matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I kept telling myself I could do it.
No matter how angry I got with myself, I couldn’t make the journey.
“Many times I would make it into the car, but the anxiety would kick in, the panic attacks became so overwhelming and severe that I would have to turn around or pull in a side road while my anxiety would run riot in my mind.”
Andrew bought his Ford Transit in earlier this year, converting it from a minibus into a camper named Roxy.
“My logic was that when I drove anywhere, if I started to panic, I could pull over and stay in Roxy until it passed.
“The challenge I’m doing may seem quite easy and simple, but I can assure you it will not be.
“This challenge will have me facing my anxiety and depression head on, helping raise awareness of Men’s Mental Health.”
Andrew served as an Aircraft Engineer, working on Sea King helicopters on front-line squadrons operating off HMS Invincible and the support ship RFA Argus.
He left in 1995 after seven yeas’ regular service and a further three in the Royal Naval Reserve before battling anxiety over his business, debt, alcohol dependency, a brush with the law, and the breakdown of his marriage all took their toll.
Andrew said: “I had all of these red flags and warnings, but I still thought I could turn things around. I was wrong; I had waited far too long to reach out for help.
“That point came in 2018, and I reached the lowest point in my life. I had been through years of emotional stress, turmoil and reached a point that I felt the best thing for everyone would be if I was no longer here.
“I was so poorly with my mental health that I tried to take my own life.
“I was so poorly with my mental health that I tried to take my own life.”
“But I did eventually reach out and contacted an alcohol help service in South Shields.
“Staff there started to help unravel and help me start my recovery. I joined NAAFI Break, a local ex-forces charity really to socialise and give some structure to my week.
“There, I met a lady from SSAFA who helped me with my financial and housing problems.
“SSAFA’s caseworker helped me secure housing as I was losing my home at that time, and also helped with furnishings, carpets, and some initial bills and debts.”
Andrew’s Van Life adventure begins on Monday 15 November and is expected to take up to four weeks.
Fellow Van Lifers are invited to join him along the way and can keep track of his progress on his Instagram.
He has so far raised more than £2,800 for his chosen charities – donations can be made via Just Giving.
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