Evening Telegraph

1,200 traumatised by Grenfell fire received mental health treatment

More than 1,200 people traumatised by the Grenfell Tower fire received mental health treatment in the year after the blaze, figures show.

Some 1,108 people entered therapy for trauma-related conditions or complex grief between June 14 2017 and July 2018, Central and North West London (CNWL) NHS Trust said.

Another 126 patients with long-term mental health problems had their conditions worsened by the west London blaze, which claimed the lives of 72 people.

The “vast majority” of patients are still receiving help as trauma therapy is a “lengthy process”, said John Green, who heads the Grenfell mental health response.

  • 1,108 for trauma-related conditions or complex grief
  • 126 for worsened long-term conditions

The unprecedented need after the disaster transformed the trust into “the largest trauma service in the UK”, while its screening and treatment programme is the largest of its kind in Europe, he added.

A further 200 people with complex psychological and social issues who are not yet ready to start therapy are receiving support from an outreach team.

These people are receiving “stabilisation” to prepare them for treatment.

It is the first time statistics for the 12 months after the fire have been made available, laying bare the fire’s far-reaching psychological repercussions.

Chief psychologist Dr Green, clinical director at the Grenfell Tower NHS mental health response, said: “The North Kensington community has been badly hit and we have put a lot of effort into trying to help the community to cope with what has happened and to support recovery.

“In a sense Grenfell is not over. There is, for instance, a very distressing public inquiry under way which keeps the issue in the forefront of everyone’s thoughts.

“And of course the tower is still there. Although it is shrouded, it is a constant reminder to local people of what happened, every time they pull back their curtains in the morning.”

In the year after the fire, 2,674 adults and 463 children were screened for symptoms of trauma, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

Around 500 people are being screened each month. Numbers being screened and treated have increased as people are “now ready in a way they were not before”, Dr Green said.

Screening will continue, with new methods such as virtual reality yielding unexpected results.

Teams have been standing on the streets in North Kensington offering passers-by the chance to try adrenaline-fuelled experiences on the headsets, before asking about their mental health.

Grenfell health and wellbeing service manager Ross O’Brien, who has been pioneering the use of the technology, said it had allowed teams to screen “far more people than we would via the traditional methods”.

It comes ahead of the formal opening of the St Charles Health and Wellbeing Centre, where those affected by Grenfell will be treated in new therapy suites.

Former England footballer Les Ferdinand, who was due to cut the ribbon but can no longer attend, said he hoped people would not be afraid people to seek help if they felt overwhelmed by their emotions.

The QPR director of football grew up on the Lancaster West estate where Grenfell Tower is located and has been working with the Grenfell service to produce a virtual reality mindfulness video.