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Pounds 3,000 relief goes to anxiety group; CHARITY TO USE CASH TO UPDATE ANTIQUATED COMPUTER SYSTEM.

A charity based in Kenilworth, which helps thousands of people suffering from anxiety-related illnesses, has received almost Pounds 3,000 from Comic Relief.

First Steps to Freedom was set up in 1991 to help people in the Midlands suffering from a variety of illnesses, including agoraphobia and obsessive compulsive disorder.

It has now become a national charity, receiving almost 7,000 calls last year from sufferers across the country.

One of the founding members Lesley Hobbs, aged 53, of Randall Road, Kenilworth, was delighted with the award of Pounds 2,800.

This will be spent on two computers - one for herself and one for her colleague Sheila Harris, aged 60, of Park Road, Kenilworth.

Mrs Harris said: ``It was vital we got new computers before 2000. The old computer system was very antiquated.''

The charity was set up because there was no other support group for people suffering from anxiety-related illnesses.

And some doctors were more sympathetic than others.

All the charity's volunteers have suffered from anxiety-related illnesses, so they understand the problems people have.

The charity has produced about 60 fact sheets to help sufferers.

A newsletter is also produced quarterly and a helpline is available between 10am and 10pm on 01926 851608.

Both Mrs Hobbs and Mrs Harris managed to overcome their agoraphobia - fear of open spaces - through determination and patience.

Mrs Harris said: ``My agoraphobia was so bad that I found it difficult to move from one room to another.''

She conquered her fears by building up the time she spent out of doors gradually and using relaxation techniques.

This approach also helped Mrs Hobbs. ``My quality of life was non-existent. I was right down at the bottom. I either had to stay there or climb out of it.

"It was hard work but worth it.

``I set myself small goals, at first just going down to the first lamp- post and then working up from there.''

The charity desperately needs money and volunteers.

Anybody who is interested in volunteering should contact 01926 864473.
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Author:Summers, Kathryn
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Jan 7, 1999
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