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/ 4 June 2018

Grenfell Mental Health Professionals and Diocese of London Warn Against ‘Retraumatisation’

Thoughts displayed on church railings after the Grenfell Tower fire

Ahead of the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, Healing Minds, a group bringing together a number of local NHS and mental health professionals and organisations, has worked with the Diocese of London to issue guidance for media organisations reporting on, and dealing with those affected by, trauma. Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, who has been involved with the Grenfell response since the early days, and some representatives from Healing Minds, have met with journalists to discuss the challenges of balancing necessary and sensitive reporting with the risks of retraumatisation for a number of vulnerable people, particularly as the Public Inquiry continues to hear evidence.

The NHS Grenfell Outreach Team has, to date, made 6794 contacts with members of the community affected by health issues related to Grenfell. 880 adults and children are in treatment, under the NHS Screen & Treat trauma programme,alongside other organisations and community groups who have been delivering support services.

Healing Minds practitioners have recognised the importance and value of much of the media reporting on Grenfell over the past year, knowing that good media stories can change lives. However, for some people still in the very early stages of recovery, there are concerns that certain aspects of media coverage and engagement with journalists can have a retraumatising effect.

The feedback from the media is that they would value advice from mental health professionals on engaging with people who have experienced trauma. The new guidelines on retraumatisation, put together by Healing Minds, build on the principles of DoNoHarm and are as follows:

  1. Intrusive reporting can put undue pressure on those affected to comment, when they clearly would rather not.
  2. Warnings of sensitive content, printed, online or verbal, are helpful to identify sensitive content, likely to provoke a strong emotional response for some.
  3. Images of the Tower today demonstrate to those living with trauma that the incident is historic – pictures of the tower in flames could cause distress by making events seem current.
  4. First-person accountscould prove similarly upsetting – the third-person should be used where possible.
  5. Where to get help‘fact-boxes’, accompanying in-depth pieces about Grenfell, are vital.
  6. Trauma recovery can make for good news stories, demonstrating that healing is possible and probable for most people.
  7. Interviews with children should be avoided, given they are particularly vulnerable to the long-term effects of media attention.

Healing Minds includes organisations active in North Kensington such as CNWL NHS Trust,Kensington and Chelsea Mind, Help Advisory Service Hestia, Cruse Kensington Chelsea Hammersmith & Fulham, Winston’s Wish, Mind and Soul Foundation, Place2Be, West London Action for Children and Brent, Wandsworth and Westminster Mind.  The consortium formed in the early days after the Grenfell Fire to coordinate skills and resources, in response to the volume of requests each organisation was receiving for help and assistance.

The Bishop of Kensington, Dr Graham Tomlin, who has worked closely with members of the Grenfell community over the past year, commented:

“Healing Minds brings together a group of organisations who together have done some remarkable work in helping offer support for the local community around mental health issues over the past year. These guidelines come from a very useful and constructive dialogue between mental health professionals and journalists, to try to help the necessary reporting of the Grenfell story be as sensitive as possible to those who still are still in the early stages of healing from their trauma on that night a year ago.”

Dr John Green, Clinical lead for Grenfell Health & Wellbeing service, said:

“The memorialisations at the Inquiry have been very powerful and emotional, but distressing for the families and others. I have been very impressed at the resilience people have shown in this painful process, and some have needed support at times. Media reporting needs to be mindful of retraumatisation so I’m pleased to support this initiative. It helps journalists do their job with less danger of retraumatising those already affected most.”

Dr Green has written more fully about this here:https://www.cnwl.nhs.uk/news/reporting-trauma-advice-journalists/

Photo credit Matthew Barrett.

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The diocesan communications team provides support to the network of clergy, churches, parishes and other worshipping communities that comprises the Diocese of London, as well as to the staff teams of the London Diocesan Fund.

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