Stories to inspire

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A former soldier who was injured in Afghanistan and a former triathlete who lost her legs in a car crash visited Rossett School recently to talk about their experiences and the impact that living with a disability has had on their mental wellbeing.

Year 8 students listened in awe and stunned silence to Stewart Harris and Nerys Pearce as they told their stories of immense bravery and triumph over adversity. The talk was facilitated by Nerys on behalf of Blesma, a charity which provides support for limbless veterans.

Stewart was a soldier with the Welsh Guards Regiment in Afghanistan when his truck was hit by an IED. Several of his colleagues and friends were killed, and Stewart himself was left with multiple injuries including the loss of sight in one eye and partial loss of hearing in both ears. Stewart now tours the country speaking about his experiences to raise awareness of mental health issues, and he is also a fundraiser for The Soldiers Charity.

Nerys was a combat paramedic and triathlete who was paralysed when a car reversed in front of her motorbike. After struggling at first to cope with her disability, she returned to sport and went on to win medals in the Warrior and Invictus Games. She has also represented Wales in para-powerlifting at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, and set British and world records in indoor rowing.

She is now planning a 3,000-mile wheelchair ride across America.

Following the talks, students were given the opportunity to ask Stewart questions about his time in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia. Nerys then asked them to reflect on their own mental health and what makes them anxious or worried, before recommending some basic coping strategies.

Rossett’s Director of Learning Mike Sweetman said: “Stewart and Nerys were inspirational, and it was an absolute privilege to meet them and hear their amazing stories.

“Our students were very mature in their approach towards them, particularly during the Q&A session with Stewart. I have no doubt the event helped them to understand more about the importance of mental health and learning strategies for coping during times of stress, whatever the cause of that stress may be.”