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Wirral veteran takes centre stage

Alison Williams becomes cover star of Combat Stress magazine

Wirral veteran, Alison Williams (41), has become the latest cover star of the Combat Stress spring magazine after the leading veterans’ mental health charity supported her to regain her confidence and rediscover her voice.

Alison, who served in the Royal Air Force for 13 years, was chosen to join Gareth Malone’s Invictus Choir in 2016 and performed at the opening ceremony of the Invictus Games in Orlando, Florida last May.  For Alison, who has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), joining the choir was a personal challenge and a chance to put the skills she had learnt at Combat Stress to practice.

Alison said;

“I did a lot of singing in the past but when I became unwell, I stopped singing. I totally lost my confidence. I found out about the Invictus Choir just after I had finished my six-week residential PTSD Intensive Treatment Programme. Part of my recovery was to find a new focus and re-engage with something I’d enjoyed previously. The choir looked like the perfect opportunity for me.”

Before receiving support from Combat Stress Alison used to find it difficult to travel alone. “I’d have to take my mum with me when I took my daughter to school.” But when the choir met for the first time, she had to travel over 200 miles from home and stay in a hotel on her own before meeting everyone the next day.

“It was really challenging to be away from home – I found it very stressful but I managed thanks to the coping tools I’d learnt at Combat Stress,” says Alison.

After rehearsing in the UK, the choir flew to the States for the big performance. “There was an awful lot to take in.  I had to get used to wearing a special earpiece as I was singing solo. And we had to rehearse the choreography for when we walked onto the stage. I had to park any anxiety and just get on with it.

“It wasn’t really until a few months later that I realised how much I had overcome. I can now travel on my own with reduced anxiety levels and I’ve just started a make-up artistry course at college, something I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do a few years ago. I’m even having singing lessons – just for pure enjoyment.

“I’m still part of the Invictus Choir – we have several performances planned for this year including one at Twickenham this April

“My recovery is a long-term project but thanks to the help of Combat Stress, I’ve come an awful long way. I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved. Mental ill health does not discriminate it affects men and women equally and across society. I urge anyone who feels they are not coping to seek medical advice as support is out there if you and your family need it.”

Sue Freeth, Chief Executive at Combat Stress said;

“It’s fantastic to see the Alison using the skills she learnt at Combat Stress in a way that has made such a positive impact on her life.

“Combat Stress makes a real difference to the lives of thousands of ex-servicemen and women across the UK with mental health problems. In the last five years we have seen a 71% increase in referrals, it’s vital that we raise awareness and support for the charity to enable us to continue to provide this life-changing work to every veteran that needs our help.

“We wish Alison the best of luck with her make-up artistry course and singing in the future.”

To make a £5 donation to Combat Stress please text PTSD8 to 70004. (Texts costs £5 plus your network charge. Combat Stress receives 100% of your donation. Please obtain bill payers permission. Customer Care: 01372 587153. Charity no. 206002)

ENDS

For more information please contact Holly Ayres, PR Officer, on 01372 587165 or Holly.Ayres@combatstress.org.uk

Notes to editors:

Combat Stress is the UK’s leading mental health charity for veterans. Founded in 1919, our work is as vital today as it was after the First World War.

More than 6,000 veterans across the UK are registered with us. Demand for our services is rising, over the past five years we have had almost 10,000 referrals – an increase of 71%.

On average it takes 12 years after leaving the military for veterans to contact Combat Stress for help, by which time their condition is often highly complex. However veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are coming to Combat Stress much sooner, within four and two years respectively.

We treat conditions including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. To help veterans rebuild their lives, we provide a range of free services:

  • Short-stay clinical treatment at one of our treatment centres in Ayrshire, Shropshire and Surrey
  • A specialist PTSD Intensive Treatment Programme – run at our three treatment centres
  • Outpatients – assessment by psychiatrists and psychologists enables us to diagnose, define and deliver the treatment veterans require
  • Occupational therapy – using meaningful and creative activity to encourage hope, wellbeing and recovery
  • Community Teams – a UK-wide network of Community Teams providing treatment and practical support to veterans
  • Reserve Forces Liaison Team – working directly with reservists and military staff, raising awareness of mental health issues in the Reserve Forces
  • Substance Misuse Case Management Service – helping veterans to access the services for their drug and alcohol problems so their mental health issues can be addressed
  • A 24-hour Helpline for veterans, serving personnel and families (0800 138 1619)

Useful links

Our website: combatstress.org.uk

On Twitter: @CombatStress

On Facebook: facebook.com/CombatStress

On LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/combat-stress

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