Mental Health Awareness Week: Dan's story
19 May 2016
Dan has been a resident at Hydon Hill in Surrey for five and half years following a diving accident.
For Mental Health Awareness Week, Dan talks about how Hydon Hill gave him what he needed to rehabilitate both physically and mentally.
'I hadn’t anticipated staying here so long, but after my accident I couldn’t hop straight to the real world. It would have been too much.
'Being here has enabled me to accept what’s happened to me and allowed me time to rebuild my life.
'It was a peaceful and very natural environment to really soul search in.
'I was broken when I arrived here, almost suicidal. Now I leave with a full life.
'That’s no small feat. I entered as a broken person and have left rehabilitated.'
Returning to Colombia
'My dream was to return to Colombia. I first went back two years after I’d nearly died there.
'I went to where I used to work, to the hospital where I went after my accident and saw again the people who saved my life.
'Getting on an aeroplane with a wheelchair was the best thing I ever did.
'I would really recommend travel to others in a similar situation if it’s safe for them to do so, you realise you can still get around and it’s a liberating, empowering feeling.
'There is a bit more cost and preparation, but you can do it.'
Starting my own charity
'For several weeks after, I was really happy for the first time and it gave me the motivation to start my own charity.
'I started my idea for the charity from my room using my laptop and speech recognition software. I just couldn’t bear the thought of just lying in bed and watching daytime TV.
'There was six months of my writing to people to ask them to be trustees and harnessing support.
'When I was in Colombia before my accident, I had spent two years working as a youth worker in Central America. So I decided [my charity] would support apprenticeships and children [in Colombia] from deprived urban slums — the lowest 1 or 2% of young people in the local area.
'We prepare them for interviews and jobs. We provide laptops and support.
'We also offer apprenticeships — six month ones based in accountancy. The apprentices learn life skills and there is an emphasis on healthy habits.
'The idea is to gain employment in accountancy, which is a very in demand profession in the region.
'So far we have helped over 225 children, with 100 now working in jobs at the company where they undertook their apprenticeship.
A safety net
'This home was a safety net, [so I could] focus on rebuilding my life. At the time I felt lost and devastated. I leave here with fond memories.'