After struggling with his mental health, Peter was spurned by his family, spending 17 years bouncing around various services. After one particularly traumatic breakdown, he finally managed to get his life back on track. He now works as Peer Development Co-ordinator for our Westminster mental health service, leading a team of peers who supports others through their recovery.

My troubles started early in life. During my apprenticeship, my partner fell pregnant. We were struggling with money and eventually, unable to provide for the baby, we put her up for adoption. Looking for a fresh start, my partner and I made the move from Ireland to London. Life settled down for a while and we had another child. However, after a few years, my partner and I made the difficult decision to end our relationship.

I started using cannabis as a way of coping with my feelings and depression. Things went from bad to worse - I ended up living in a squat and was admitted to hospital. After this hospital admissions, I decided to move back to Ireland.

I found little support there from friends or family. I had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, which was surrounded by stigma and misunderstanding. I found myself turning to cannabis all the time to escape my feelings. I eventually left my parents as I couldn’t cope with the judgement and moved into another squat. This shut down after a time and I returned to London.

I found myself homeless for the first time that Christmas.

I eventually managed to get myself into an emergency homeless hostel, where I was terrified of engaging with services for my mental health. My key worker was trying to encourage me to get treatment, but I couldn’t face it. I ended up getting mixed up with the wrong people, who persuaded me to start smoking again. That’s when I hit rock bottom.

I couldn’t cope with it all and my girlfriend attempted suicide. I was sectioned again and found myself back in hospital yet again, utterly down about my life.

This was my turning point. I thought to myself, “Never, ever again.” I have not touched cannabis since. It was a strange awakening. It was if I had met myself for the first time in years, and found myself staring at a shattered life, full of broken pieces and loss. But I was still here. I realised I couldn’t let this beat me. I knew I had to take a chance with what little I had left.

My life slowly started to change. After six months of being abstinent from cannabis and taking required medication, I got my life back on track. I found work, started to socialise more and take part in activities including joining a tennis group. My relationship with my family improved and I even reconnected with my first born daughter who had been adopted

I wish I had realised sooner that failing to take necessary medication and taking cannabis was the reason why I was like I was, and had been in hospital.

I spent 17 years in services, 17 years lost. But now I’ve got my life back.

Find out more about our Peer Mentoring programme.