A FORMER sergeant who was on the verge of taking his own life has found life in the spotlight as a film extra.

Ryan Lewis, from Colchester, served for nearly 15 years in the 7th Parachute Royal Horse Artillery including tours of Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 33-year-old, who was born in Germany, joined the Army when he was 18 but left in 2014 after being admitted to a psychiatric hospital in 2012.

Ryan was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder which culminated when he tried to commit suicide.

Thankfully, he survived and sought help.

Now he is making a name for himself on the big screen rubbing shoulders with the likes of award-winning actress Olivia Coleman and film star Woody Harellson.

Ryan said: “In 2004 my regiment moved and I found myself in Colchester.

“I felt incredibly isolated as I was away from my family and had a young family of my own.

“Trying to balance my job in the Army and my life at home was becoming too much.

“I also started having panic attacks in 2009 and wasn’t sleeping because of nightmares from what I’d seen in Iraq.

“In 2012, I tried to commit suicide but thankfully stopped myself. It was then I got admitted to a psychiatric hospital.

“After being discharged I went back to work but people just didn’t know how to handle me. When I left the Arm, I felt lost more than ever.”

Ryan decided to get in contact with Help for Heroes and visited the recovery centre Chavasse VC House in Colchester.

He found it hard to mix with people there, but felt there was no pressure.

He said: “They just gently let me know when I was ready, they were ready.

“ I started seeing a psychological wellbeing advisor who helped me to see things from a different angle and enabled me to be more proactive when it came to problem solving.

“I’d had a lot done for me in the Army, such as paying bills, so I had to learn how to take responsibility for my own budget.”

It changed his outlook on life and he realised he was not alone.

He even took part in the Hero Ride in 2015, alongside another 99 injured service personnel who covered 18,000 miles between them.

He then responded to a Facebook advert about extras being needed to play soldiers in a TV programme.

Ryan has now signed up with an agency and has regular extras work.

His first job was with Olivia Coleman in the Night Manager, but Ryan has also worked on the Netflix Drama The Royals and the Inspector Morse spin-off Endeavour.

More recently he has worked with Hollywood stars Will Ferrell and Woody Harellson.

Ryan said: “It’s the hardest thing to make that phone call admitting that you need help. You have a fear of rejection or being judged but no-one does, there is only acceptance.

“Plenty of others are going through a similar situation.

“You feel like you’re the only person in the world feeling like this but you soon realise that’s not the case.”

If you are concerned about mental health, you can seek help by calling 0808 2020 144.