A veteran who has struggled with mental health problems since leaving the Army is celebrating an employment milestone.
Chris Cowe, from Pegswood, had been unemployed for 20 years.
But thanks to The Poppy Factory, which helps wounded, injured and sick veterans back into work in communities throughout the region, the 44-year-old has celebrated his first anniversary working at the Azure Garden Centre in Cramlington.
He secured a job as a garden centre assistant and also took on the seasonal role of Father Christmas.
Chris said: “I was in the Territorial Army for two or three years and then I joined the Coldstream Guards. I’d wanted to be in the Army from a very young age.
“I was in training for 12 weeks, then there was an incident that really played on my mind and they told me to go home immediately afterwards. That was the end of my time in the Army.
“I had really bad depression for a few years and I felt like my head was going to explode.
“I met up with Giles, my employability consultant at The Poppy Factory, and he did a lot to encourage me. We looked at a few jobs and I got an interview.
“I didn’t get that job because I didn’t have enough experience, but I was told I was next on the list. That was a good feeling and gave me the confidence I needed to get to where I am now.
“I started off at the Azure Garden Centre on a work placement and they’ve kept me on as an assistant for a year now.”
He added: “I’m really enjoying it. I like being able to help the customers and the other members of the team.”