A GREENOCK woman who has suffered years of pain and severe health problems stemming from a chronic womb condition says signing up as a befriender saved her life.

Volunteer Bernadette Armour, 48, was diagnosed with endometriosis in her early 30s and it left her with lifelong back pain.

She also ended up in hospital with mental health illness.

Fifteen years later she has turned a corner and joined community care forum Your Voice as a befriender helping senior citizens.

Bernadette, of Nicolson Street, said: "I now have a reason to get out of the house.

"Being a befriender really helps me to give something back and help other people.

"It has saved me.

"I was diagnosed with endometriosis 15 years ago - I didn't even understand what it was and nobody knew anything about it.

"There is more awareness now.

"I had all kinds of complications and I had a hysterectomy.

"Now I have really bad back problems and I can't sit for any length of time.

"It affected everything - on top of the health problems from endometriosis I suffered episodes of schizophrenia and ended up in Ravenscraig."

Endometriosis is a chronic and debilitating condition which causes severe period pains and can lead to infertility, fatigue and bowel and bladder problems.

The condition has been a taboo subject for many and now campaigners like Bernadette are trying to raise more awareness to speed up medical diagnosis.

She said: "I never thought in my darkest days I could be where I am today.

"Helping as a befriender has made all the difference to me and I would encourage other people to do it.

"If like me you have health problems it is a way of getting yourself back out there.

"I love spending time with older people."

Your Voice matched Bernadette with Isabel Kerr, who has mobility issues and can't easily leave her flat in Jamaica Court.

Isabel said: "I have osteoporosis so it is nice to get out the house with someone.

"It is lovely to spend a couple of hours with Bernadette."

Your Voice's Julie Gillan is keen to get more people involved in the forum's befriending project, which has exposed a great need in the community.

She added: "It can be as important to the volunteer as it is to the person they are helping.

"We are delighted to have Bernadette on board - she is a great match with Isabel."

* To find out more about the befriending service call 728628.