An ex- millionaire who became homeless after his business and family life fell apart has described how he turned himself around.
Andrew Blythe, 55, appeared to have it all after setting up a successful electrical and plumbing business twenty years ago that was turning over £1million annually.
But a series of devastating blows in the space of just one year saw Andrew turn to drink and drugs to cope with depression, with the businessman going on to lose his livelihood, marriage and home.
The first knock happened while Andrew was on holiday in Croatia in 2018, when he lost a major business contract.
In the months that followed, his then-wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, his mum suffered a stroke and his best friend took his own life.
At the same time, Andrew was also dealing with his own serious heart and liver health issues.
Andrew admits he “wasn’t there” for his wife and “felt useless” that he couldn’t look after her.
But not knowing how to talk about or deal with it, he kept burying his feelings deeper and threw himself into work.
He said: “I wasn’t there for her because I was running the business. I couldn’t care for her or take her to hospital appointments because it was the other direction.
“I felt useless. I had all the money and the business but I couldn’t look after the one person I cared about.”
The businessman started “self-medicating” with drugs and alcohol and spending more and more time at work – at one point staying in the office for more than 70 hours a week.
Andrew recalled: “I had a bedroom set up in the office because if I stayed at home I would leave at 5am in the morning so in the end I would stay at work.
“I couldn’t tell my wife and she could tell if I had drugs or drink so I almost stayed away on purpose.
“It was a crutch. I would think, the next day will be better but in the end that failed.”
His problems came to a head when one day, driving back to work, Andrew took an unplanned detour and headed for his caravan.
He switched his three phones off and spent two days on his own, where he fell into a deep sleep.
It took a year of sofa-surfing with a friend and spending the only money he had left before they were evicted when Andrew stepped out to ask for help.
He turned up at Southend’s homeless charity, HARP, with just two bags, filled with his only belongings – two pairs of shorts and four shirts.
But despite having “lost it all” Andrew feels he has achieved more in the last two years than he ever has before.
He is healthier and happier and finally, moving forwards – and says he is glad he spoke about his issues.
“I felt ashamed and didn’t want to ask for help,” he said.
“I went to Citizens Advice and told them my story for Universal Credit and they gave me some money that day – no shame or embarrassment.”
He added: “If someone had phoned me and said they were taking a day off for depression, I wouldn’t have been very sympathetic.
“It felt like weakness to me. But only when I admitted it, I felt a lot better.
“I have felt happier now than I have for a long time. There’s so much help out there and sessions and courses to go on.”
HARP helped Andrew with emergency accommodation before moving him into a hostel and finally a shared house in Southend – where he is now just five doors away from his first flat he had at 21.
He says the financial, emotional and practical support HARP gave him was nothing short of life-saving.
“I didn’t care if I lived or died, I had no interest in working or anything – I had gone too far the other way,” he said.
“They are such selfless people there, they help you with food, haircuts, dentists and they will look after you, as long as you show willing.
“They saved my life.”
Talk to someone
You don’t have to suffer in silence if you’re struggling with your mental health.
Here are some groups you can contact when you need help:
Samaritans: Phone 116 123, 24 hours a day, or email [email protected], in confidence.
Childline: Phone 0800 1111. Calls are free and won’t show up on your bill.
PAPYRUS: A voluntary organisation supporting suicidal teens and young adults. Phone 0800 068 4141.
Depression Alliance: A charity for people with depression. No helpline, but it offers useful resources and links to other information.
Students Against Depression: A website for students who are depressed, have low mood, or are suicidal. Click here to visit.
Bullying UK: A website for both children and adults affected by bullying. Click here.
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM): For young men who are feeling unhappy. There is a helpline: 0800 58 58 58 or visit the website.