A volunteer has spoken about how helping others saved his life.

Andrew Digby-Clarke, 44, volunteers across East Sussex, primarily at Sussex Coast College in Hastings and as a buddy at mental health care provider Southdown’s St Leonards and Hastings Wellbeing Centre.

There he has been participating in workshops for the Staying Well service, an out-of-hours safe space.

Andrew supports people with mental health challenges to complete educational courses.

Andrew, who lives in Battle, said: “Southdown gave me a chance. If they hadn’t taken me on as a volunteer, I’d probably be in the middle of the ocean.”

Andrew used to suffer with severe headaches, and post-traumatic migraines.

He had deep brain stimulation surgery to help relieve them, which worked, but when the headaches had calmed, his trauma over past abuse began to resurface.

He said: “I tried to kill myself five or six times. About five years ago, I planned to kill myself. It took me a long time to plan the date so that my children wouldn’t find me, but my wife noticed I wasn’t well.

“I went to the doctor who could see I was in a dark place. The mental health crisis team came to my house and were shocked by the number of tablets I had saved and I was admitted to a mental health ward.

“I first got involved with volunteering at Southdown through my occupational therapist.

“She was leaving her job and she wanted to make sure I had somewhere to go, that I wasn’t left hanging without support or direction when she left.

“She saw something in me. She thought because I was chatty, a good listener and helpful I would be a good peer specialist.

“When she suggested peer support work, I got butterflies.

“That’s what gave me the push. I saw that my body wanted something different.”

Andrew passed Southdown’s buddy course and completed his NCFE Level 2 award in mentoring.

He said: “Volunteering has given me a purpose. I think I’m here for a reason, I’d like to think it’s to help other people who are in a dark place.”

Southdown’s volunteer co- ordinator Michelle Trunchion said: “Volunteering is a fantastic way to develop skills, meet people and get involved in your community. At Southdown, it helps us to be there for more vulnerable people facing challenges in their life.”