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Janet Foster, clinical lead for CWP’s improving access to psychological therapies service in Western Cheshire, said: "We are actively encouraging former service men and women to get involved and help shape the support available to ex-military personnel.
"6,000 former service men and women resettle into civilian life with their families in the North West each year; many of these will require psychological support following their experiences. One in four will suffer depression or anxiety, anger and trauma related problems are also prominent and individuals often use alcohol or illicit drugs to cope."
Gary Cameron, director of Military Mental Health CIC, knows the devastating affects that post war mental health issues can have. Upon leaving the army in 1994, Gary felt ready to go straight into work and secured a good job with the NHS. Whilst at the time he thought that this was the perfect start to his new life, he now appreciates it was a step too far.
"I felt really anxious about being in busy areas because of some of my experiences as a soldier. Getting public transport and walking around the hospital I worked in used to panic me, so much so that I soon found I couldn’t make the journey or enter the hospital without having a few drinks first."
Gary became dependent on alcohol to get him through each day, his addiction lost him his job at the hospital, and this cycle was repeated twice more before Gary eventually lost his home too.
"It took me seven years to recognise that I may have a mental health problem. Having been institutionalised as a soldier and constantly been expected to portray a macho image, I had found it really difficult to accept that something was not right, let alone ask for help."
Gary finally admitted he was not coping and went to his local mental health service who gave him the support that he desperately needed. Now, several years on, Gary dedicates his life to helping those people who are experiencing the same problems as he did, his message to the ex-servicemen and women of Western Cheshire is clear:
"CWP are offering you a great chance to help shape the support that is available to those that need it. We all have scars as a result of service but you can help to make sure those with invisible scars are not left to suffer in silence."
The focus group will meet on Friday 30th September 2011 at 10.30am (venue to be confirmed). For more information about becoming involved or to speak anonymously with a member of staff, please call Janet Foster 01244 397575 or Sue Owens 01244 362106.
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