A SOLDIER has signed up to take part in a triathlon in a bid to raise cash for a mental health unit that cared for him after a breakdown.

Capt Colin Johnson, 46, suffers from a ‘nerve impingement’ which causes him agonising pain and he takes 24 strong painkillers every day.

In January, his ongoing injury, where one of the discs in his spine is trapping the nerve to his right arm, combined with other issues in his life, caused him to have a mental breakdown.

Capt Johnson was admitted to the Darwen Ward at Royal Blackburn Hospital’s Pendle View unit.

He was discharged on January 15 and has now signed up for the Darwen Triathlon with girlfriend Helen McKenzie and friend Tina Maitland.

Capt Johnson, who has been in the Army for 30 years and has served in Northern Ireland, Bos-nia, Kosovo and Iraq, said: “I have travelled to some dark places during the past five months and I now find myself on the road to recovery, thanks primarily to the staff of Darwen Ward.

“This experience made me realise that mental health illness can affect anyone at any age and from any background in society.”

Capt Johnson, who began his Army career as a medic and is based at Preston’s Fulwood Barracks, said while on the ward the nurses often went above and beyond the call of duty.

He said: “One example is they would get us playing bingo and we would win prizes such as a bag of Haribo or some shampoo.

“These are essential items that you need when you are in hospital for an extended period.

“And a lot of the time they pay for these things out of their own money.

“The care at the Darwen Ward was absolutely phenomenal.”

Capt Johnson is now under the care of the Army’s Personnel Recovery Unit and is in training for the event on June 22.

He will swim 24 lengths of Darwen Leisure Centre, cycle 23km and then run 8km up to the iconic Darwen Tower and back.

To sponsor Capt Johnson, visit www.gofundme.com/darwen4darwen