A Plaistow man has walked the length of Great Britain to raise money for a charity that supports people with brain injuries.

Dave Thomas took on a 1,234-mile challenge from Land's End to John o'Groats and raised more than £14,000 for Headway.

His four-year-old daughter Willow joined him for 500 miles of the trek, which was undertaken across two months.

University of East London student Dave discovered during the Covid lockdown that he had sustained debilitating neurological and psychological trauma during his career as a semi-professional rugby player.

He suffered depression during the pandemic, with his main symptom being disinhibition.

Dave explained: “Because of the injuries to my brain, I went from someone once praised for their rhetorical skills to someone struggling daily to process and monitor everything I say, simply to avoid accidentally oversharing or offending anyone."

He started walking daily with Willow and said this saved his life.

Newham Recorder: Dave and Willow at Land's End in CornwallDave and Willow at Land's End in Cornwall (Image: Dave Thomas)

"I had a glimmer of hope. Those daily walks spent chatting, singing and sometimes just in comfortable silence were the life support I needed."

Dave is now studying a masters degree in psychology to understand more about brain injuries.

He said he wants to support people who have been through the trauma.

"Chances are, someone close to you will be affected at some point, yet until that happens you've probably heard very little of the impact they can have.

“I realised that if I was to truly help people holistically, I would need a better understanding of the psychology.

"I have learnt a significant amount about head injuries and about trauma. I think this has been my main learning; to understand the impact that physical trauma can have on mental distress.

“I'm halfway through my MSc and although my age is slightly up against it, I would love to go into clinical psychology."

For Dave, the most challenging part of his journey was learning to be alone.

“Very few people know what it's like to be completely alone walking for 10 hours a day with nothing, but your thoughts.

"I made a conscious effort not to listen to podcasts or music and therefore initially, I found this extremely uncomfortable.

"Over time, this has gone from uncomfortable to therapeutic as I've learnt so much about myself."

Anybody struggling with the issues raised in this article can contact the Samaritans by dialling 116 123 or emailing jo@samaritans.org.