Severe mental health issues are affecting thousands of inhabitants of the Grenfell area and others scarred by the tragedy. The public health response is the largest of its kind in Europe.
Doctors estimate that over 11,000 people in the north Kensington community have been traumatised, although not all will seek treatment. Around 1,300 people have been seen so far regarding mental and physical problems related to the fire. Approximately 360 people suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD,) of which 90 are children requiring urgent care.
Hundreds of local residents are being screened for mental health problems, with NHS staff approaching around 4,000 people in the Grenfell area to locate those struggling to cope and reach those who may not seek professional help for many years. Health professionals warn that many more who witnessed the blaze on TV may be similarly affected.
Leading psychologist Dr John Green dubbed the Central and North West London NHS Trust “the largest trauma service in the UK.”
“I think this is the biggest programme there’s ever been in Europe, certainly in terms of mental health. There’s never been anything like it. It does strike us that this is much bigger push than there’s ever been anywhere else … so it is very novel, there are a lot of things that we’re doing that people have never done before,” Green told the Guardian.
Former residents are beginning to return to the tower, accompanied by doctors and emergency services staff, to salvage objects of sentimental value, important documents and other items.
The poor housing conditions of victims is stifling recovery attempts, with many still crowded into hotel rooms. Child mental health experts warn that a “solid base” is required before therapy can proceed successfully.
“[Treatment is ] not something to be entered into lightly and I think people know themselves when they are ready,” David Bailey, service manager for Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, told the Independent.
“Having a solid base, a place where you feel safe and secure, a front door that’s your door that you can close on the world – if you don’t have that … then it’s really difficult about thinking of doing something that’s going to feel disturbing or talking about something that’s been a difficult thing for you to process.”