A 46-year-old Army veteran from Chelmsford has a new lease of life, after a period of contemplating suicide, and admits he’s now ‘glad he’s around to see everything good about the world’.
Darren Sach served in the Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers for more than 20 years, but, after he was medically discharged, his world fell apart overnight. He was unaware of how to apply for a flat or claim the benefits he was entitled to. He was in pain, out of work, isolated, and, as he discovered, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He became overwhelmed with his issues.
“There were a few times in my life when things got too much and the only way out, I thought, would be suicide.
“I was medically discharged from the Army due to injuries. On leaving the forces, my mental health was in a very, very, bad way. Having that routine, that regime every day, finding everything was almost done for you, and then going to nothing; having that background of people looking out for you every day and then, all of a sudden, I’m on my own.
“While serving in the Army there were a few things that kept cropping up, one of them being from my childhood. I was sexually abused. PTSD set in without me knowing; I had a failed marriage. It all came to a head.
“Not knowing where my life was going, feeling as ill as I did, I wouldn’t be here without my mum. She did everything for me. If it wasn’t for my mum, I’d have ended up another homeless veteran. I don’t think I’d be alive now.”
Working with Help for Heroes’ Hidden Wounds (mental health) team, Darren has been able to come to terms with his psychological issues and deal with the day-to-day tasks that first seemed so foreign to him.
“Help for Heroes has helped me with a lot. It wasn’t until I got therapy from Rose that I realised I’d not been right for a long time. It was so easy to trust Rose. She made me feel that I was actually a person who mattered again. I was being listened to. The counselling I received taught me how to be the person I wanted to be; it brought me out of my shell, definitely.
“I went in the gym, and just started working out a little bit and done a bit of bench press. I found out you can do that sort of stuff within Help for Heroes. I found a really decent gym that I’m now the manager of and I took up powerlifting. I compete disabled but against able-bodied people; I’ve competed in British championships. I came second in one, I’ll take that.”
Not only does he demonstrate his physical prowess in powerlifting, he now shows his artistic side by singing with the charity’s choir, which has performed across the country, including, previously, at the Royal Albert Hall, and with rock legend Jon Bon Jovi, at the Abbey Road studios.
“I was at a Help for Heroes sporting event and one of the things we did in the evening was a karaoke. I really didn’t want to do, it because I didn’t think I could sing. I did the song and two of the people there said I should join the Help for Heroes choir.
“The choir gave me a lot of confidence – they’re some of the best people I’ve ever met in my life if I’m honest. They’re genuine. They’re all there for the same reason; when we sing together, we actually make quite a nice noise.”
Darren is keen to use his newfound confidence and enthusiasm to help other veterans who may be in the familiar dark places he found himself in. He’s keen to support Help for Heroes in any way he can, with fundraising – he’s participating in the summer’s Big Battlefield Bike Ride – volunteering, and in a potential ambassador role.
He wants to encourage veterans to come forward to ask for support as knows, ultimately, it was only his personal mental strength that enabled him to take the first crucial step on the road to recovery – a road that has seen him enjoy a whole new perspective on life.
“There are so many things that go through my head when I think of Help for Heroes. First, to my mind is ‘thank you’. Mentally, I’ve never been as strong and the only reason I’ve got to this stage was purely because I was brave, and I answered an email.
“Then I was brave, and I picked up the phone, and I was brave and made an appointment with someone who I knew could help. The difference between then to now is a totally different person. A person who’s happy in his own skin and someone who loves life and is glad he’s around to see everything that’s good about the world.”
Darren’s counsellor at the charity, Rose Amado-Taylor, said:
“Darren is an inspiration, hopefully, to other veterans, but certainly to those of us who’ve got to know him or worked with him. He’s achieved so much from such a low starting point. He’s certainly lucky to have such a wonderfully supportive mum as Julie. She helped Darren turn his life around.”
Help for Heroes champions the Armed Forces community and helps them live well after service. The charity helps them, and their families, to recover and get on with their lives. It has already supported more than 27,000 people and won’t stop until every veteran gets the support they deserve.
To get support, please visit: helpforheroes.org.uk.