Ex-wife of tragic Hartlepool veteran raises awareness about PTSD support

The ex-wife of a late veteran from Hartlepool is trying to raise awareness about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the help and support needed for former soldiers.

Sunday, 21st November 2021, 4:45 am
Alan passed away aged 40.

Claire Lilly, 45, has said that more measures need to be put in place for former servicemen and women after her former husband Alan Forcer passed away following a fight with PTSD.

Alan, from Hartlepool, was discovered in a wooded area between Darlington and Stockton a couple of days after he went missing in May 2020.

An inquest is shortly expected to examine the circumstances surrounding his death.

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Claire and Josh with a wreath in Alan's memory.

Forty-year-old Alan had served in Ireland and Kosovo and had been diagnosed with PTSD in 2018.

Claire, from Rochford, in Essex, has said he had witnessed “horrendous things”.

"I think he joined the army to make the world a better place or he was there with that in mind,” said Claire.

She added: "The stories he used to tell me were horrendous. Unimaginable stuff.

Claire and Alan wed in 2001.

"I think the thing that got him the most was the cultural and religious unrest and he felt a bit helpless.”

Claire and Alan met in 1999 while both were working in the Army, married in 2001 and had a son together, Josh, now 21.

Claire has said that Alan would suffer with nightmares and night tremors and eventually left the forces in 2003.

In the same year, Alan and Claire split up amicably and he later moved back to Hartlepool, had two more children and set up a business.

Alan served in Ireland and Kosovo.

He was later signposted to Combat Stress, which provided trauma therapy to him.

But in 2019 he got a letter from the organisation stating that due to funding cuts they were no longer able to provide his course.

She said: "He was quite far along in his programme, and had opened up quite a lot and had covered quite a lot of ground.

"To have that rug pulled from underneath you, it was really hard.’”

Claire is now trying to raise awareness about the battles veterans face in their own minds.

She said: "If you are in a car crash, or lose a loved one or suffer a miscarriage, or any of those things, as awful as they are, you are diagnosed with PTSD. But what the soldiers have got is a very unique form of PTSD.

"More preventative measures put in place than what’s currently available. Services that are cohesive and are easily accessible.

Josh, 21, is also trying to help veterans through charity Phoenix Heroes, where he is an honourable fishing captain – a hobby he used to share with his dad.

Jeff Harrison, interim chief executive at Combat Stress, said: “Our thoughts and condolences are with Mr Forcer’s family and friends.

“We are cooperating fully with the coroner overseeing the inquest and will be able to comment further once it has concluded.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: "Our thoughts continue to be with the family and friends of Mr Forcer.

"We urge anyone who may be struggling to reach out to the specialist support available.

"This includes the dedicated veterans mental health and wellbeing service, Op Courage, which provides a single route for accessing specialist care."

Op Courage can be contacted via at www.nhs.uk/nhs-services/armed-forces-community/mental-health/veterans-reservists/ or by telephoning 0800 652 2867.

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