Grenfell Tower block fire: Psychological trauma affecting children

Five weeks on from the Grenfell Tower fire, many people are still trying to process the trauma. Credit: PA

The scale of the of the psychological trauma experienced by children living around Grenfell Tower is extraordinary.

The local Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service manager David Bailey says it’s “in the thousands”.

Even those who were not directly involved in the fire, but have seen images of it, will have been affected by the tragedy, Mr Bailey explained.

He continued that the issue is then dealing with, and processing, what people had seen and going forward with their lives in the aftermath of the blaze.

"I think that's a huge issue for our community to be working on for years to come," he added.

Some are directly affected by the terrifying escape from the tower itself or the shock of losing members of their family.

But many more are affected by what they saw on that night, or by the loss of classmates, teachers or friends.

The degree of trauma varies enormously, but many children living in the neighbourhood have changed as a result of what has happened.

In some the behavioural changes are subtle; increased tantrums or feelings of anger and frustration, while others are struggling with nightmares, bed wetting and panic attacks.

It is presenting the local NHS workers with an extremely challenging situation.

The scale and degree of the symptoms is stretching already overworked case workers to the limit.

Many have worked in the community for years and some knew victims personally.

We spoke to Maryam Nasem whose son Ryan is six-years-old. His drawings frequently feature images of buildings billowing with smoke and engulfed with fire. He lost his best friend in the fire and one of his teachers.

She told how once she realised her son's friend and his family were still inside the flats as the fire raged, she began to cry, but she did not know who her tears were for: her son or his friend.

Ms Nasem told that since the fire she has not felt "safe" and she feels that her "heart is broken".

Sid-Ali Atmani and his daughter Hayam both escaped from the 15th floor of the tower. He tells me how his daughter has been affected by losing so many friends and neighbours.

"She heard everything," Mr Atmani said, adding his daughter was "shaking, she was terrified".

He told how his family and neighbours have been affected by the fire, and that they were not longer "the same... everything is different, emotion, personality, everything is different".

Getting help for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD):

If you, or someone you know, is suffering from flashbacks, nightmares, is having trouble sleeping, experiencing mood swings, or feels isolated or guilty, you may be suffering from PTSD.

PTSD can develop weeks or even years after a traumatic event.

If the symptoms of PTSD are particularly troubling, or you are still suffering from them more than four weeks after an event, you should seek help from your GP.

More information on the condition, and how to deal with it, can be found at NHS Choices.