A FORMER homeless man is highlighting the link between mental health and sleeping on the streets.

Daniel Mountier, 28, has been homeless three times since the age of 18 due to depression and drug use. By the age of 15 he started experiencing early signs of depression.

He said: “Growing up my mum fostered, and our place was often hectic with eight or more children in the house.

"I was expected to be the example as the eldest brother, and I felt like I couldn’t always live up to that expectation.

"By the age of 15 I didn’t feel like myself. I would break down in tears without knowing why, and began misbehaving in school.

"The teachers came down hard on me, and my mum thought it was just teenage angst.”

Within a matter of months, Daniel became suicidal.

He said: “I was breaking down most days – being suspended from school only made matters worse.

"The depression and stress at home became too much to handle and my friends began to distance themselves from me.”

Daniel found refuge in drugs, but it caused arguments in the family and when he was 18 he was "kicked out" of his parents' home.

He said: "I didn’t really have anywhere to go, so I pitched a tent in a field near where I worked and slept there.

“I spent nights sleeping on park benches because I didn’t know anyone in the area, and I got arrested a couple of times because I was sleeping rough. "My drug-using quickly escalated when I became homeless and I lost months of my life to Mephedrone.

"I lost my job and got into a lot of debt. It was only when I began using it as a replacement for sugar in my tea that I realised I had a problem, and I was very lucky to be able to slowly wean myself off.”

Life began to look good for Daniel in his early 20s when he moved in with his grandparents. He started getting qualifications, but shortly after his grandparents died he gave up.

He came to Emmaus Colchester, the homeless charity, in September last year. With their help, Daniel has begun to address his mental health issues.

He said: “I’m in a better place at Emmaus, it’s a safe place and everyone looks out for each other.

“It felt like I had spent my whole life struggling, I was trying to do the best I could every day of my life, but I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere."

Poor mental health is both a cause and consequence of homelessness.

According to Homeless Link, 44 per cent of homeless people have a mental health diagnoses, in comparison with 23 per cent of the general population.

Emmaus Colchester provides a home and meaningful work for 31 people who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion.

It is Mental Health Awareness Week from Monday, and Daniel wanted to share his story to inspire others.