Terror attack survivors demand urgent mental health reforms 5 years after Manchester Arena attack

Six people who have been affected by terror attacks spoke to ITV News Reporter Sangita Lal about their experiences.

  • Words by ITV News National and Regional News Editor Jade Liversidge

A network of survivors of terror attacks has told ITV News there needs to be urgent changes to how they are cared for in the aftermath of an attack. This weekend marks the fifth anniversary of the shocking terror attack at the Manchester Arena in which 22 people were killed when an Ariana Grande concert was bombed.

For those caught in these extreme events, which in recent years have taken place in Manchester, London and overseas, it's a reminder of grief, trauma and reflection.

A new report by the Survivors Against Terror has set out new recommendations for urgent changes, including: A new guarantee of three weeks for triage and access to relevant services within six weeks, a centralised register of terror attack survivors resident in the UK, guaranteed access to support services (including mental health treatment) within six weeks of an attack, and permanent regional hubs across the UK to provide instant and long-term care. The report's lead author Dr Stuart Murray lost his 29-year-old stepson, Martyn, in the Manchester Arena Attack.

Dr Stuart Murray Credit: ITV News

Dr Murray said: "It saddens me that there is not a desire to learn further from what has and still is happening to us.

"It frustrates me that some members of my family struggled early on to find a therapist who fully understood the impact of what had happened and the needs they had and that in the beginning, we had to pay privately as there were no NHS resources available.

"Whilst we have received offers of support from many people along the way, there remains a lack of coordination between the different mental health and supportive agencies. More importantly, there has been a total lack of continuity." Sitting down together in a warehouse in Manchester, they reflect on the circumstances that brought them closer. "How did we end up here as a group?" asks Stuart Murray.

"It's like an unfortunate club that no one wants to be in", replies Cath Hill, who was at the Ariana Grande concert in 2017 with her son Jake and became caught up in the panic when they realised an attack had taken place.

Cath Hill Credit: ITV News

Throughout the interview, it's shocking to see how matter of fact they are when describing the horrors they have experienced.

For Jo McVey, she was on a train when four suicide bombers with rucksacks full of explosives attacked central London, killing 52 people and injuring hundreds more: "I didn't know it was a bomb, but I did know that something quite serious that happened.

"I thought maybe the train had hit the tunnel or something like that. It was an accident.

"But we were in the dark, and it was very smoky. And we were there for about half an hour.

"It was very silent. Apart from once people started panicking and screaming and nerves."

Jo McVey Credit: ITV News

It was 17 years ago when she was caught up in the event, but she still relives the trauma when news came of the more recent London attacks.

"Well, the bizarre thing about it is when you see it again, you're first well off then my first thought is about the people involved. I immediately think about that, how awful it must be for them.

"Also, that you know, if they're bereaved or anyone in sight and then you just can't stop watching it. You get a bit obsessive. You know, I want to find out every detail and look at it and keep watching the news and try not to because that's not good for you. It's a bit of a trigger."

Travis Frain was one of those caught up in the recent attacks In London. On the 22 March, 2017, four people and injured 50 more when a terrorist ploughed into crowds on the bridge before stabbing PC Keith Palmer.

Travis Frain Credit: ITV News

Travis suffered serious injuries including a broken leg after he was run down by a car driven by Khalid Masood.

"I'm not from London. We were down in London for a few days and on a university trip when the attack happened. We just happened to be walking on the bridge when the attack occurred. And myself and a group of my friends, we were all hit by the car.

"And fortunately, the lads received sort of glancing blows, whereas I ended up going over the top of the bonnet essentially, and hit the windshield and went into the air.

"And I spent about eight days in hospital afterwards and then roughly about six months on crutches and a walking stick afterwards.

"In the immediate aftermath, my focus was on my physical injuries and in a way, that probably helped me because I wasn't as bad with the psychological effects as some people in my group.

"In the immediate aftermath of the attack, I didn't necessarily feel I needed the same level of support that some of my friends in my group did.

"I wanted someone to essentially hear my story, to tell them what had happened.

"When I was in hospital and in the immediate aftermath of the attack, we had police officers and doctors around every day taking statements and support.

"But as soon as I left and I was discharged home back to Lancashire, that just simply wasn't it wasn't available. Of course, there's family and friends you can speak to, but you also don't want to burden them with the real sort of traumatic details of what you've experienced."

Charlotte Dixon-Sutcliffe's husband, David Dixon, was killed in the city's Maelbeek metro attack in 2016.

Charlotte Dixon-Sutcliffe Credit: ITV News

They had been living in Brussels. David had sent a text after the Brussels airport bombings to say he was safe and then died a short while later.

"The strains on my mental health and resilience are ongoing. Anxiety, guilt and powerlessness are constant, and I am often left feeling utterly overwhelmed when having to deal with issues related to the attack.

"Added to this are the daily reminders and triggers, often innocuous in nature but somehow linked in my brain.

"Being a parent means that I feel I have to 'pull myself together' and be strong for my son – because what I feel pales into insignificance next to the mental health impact for him.

"I have recently been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I feel this is directly related to the attack.

"Later this year, the trial of the terrorists accused of being involved in the plots that destroyed our lives will go ahead, I am dreading this as I know new evidence and information will be released and it will again turn our worlds upside down and take us back to 2016."

Abi Quinn Credit: ITV News

The youngest of the group, Abi Quinn, is 17 years old. She was just 12 when she got caught up in the arena attack.

"I think people don't understand that it's an event itself. It's a knock on effect of everything else around you and everything else.

"It somehow finds a way to link to it, and it just becomes all one. So I carry on with life, but it's just not easy at all. It's a weight on my shoulders. So I always think about it, and it's there's a lot of survivors guilt.

"I have a lot of that. And, I have to keep things separate from my clients, which I like and from that event, which is very difficult.

"I went back to school a few days after the attack, and they were helpful.

"And they tried to get me help but the waiting list was 12 months. After the actual attack, a few days after, we went to our GP, and she basically just said, oh you'll be fine, it's fine."

A government spokesperson said: "We are committed to providing comprehensive and swift support to victims of domestic and overseas terrorist attacks, who can be impacted for many years and in lots of different ways.

"The support available includes a 24/7 helpline to ensure that victims have access to the emotional and practical support they need.

"We continue to listen to victims and survivors of terrorism and ensure that their views inform the support available.

"We are investing an additional £2.3billion a year into mental health services by 2023/24 and have recently launched a call for evidence to inform our 10-year mental health plan."

Steps in the right direction, but as a community comes together this weekend in kindness and remembrance, it’s action and commitment which will help ease the pain for those left behind. 

If you have been affected, contact Survivors Against Terror by visiting their website at, visit their Facebook or Twitter pages, or email

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