At least 20 survivors and witnesses of the Grenfell Tower fire have attempted suicide since the deadly incident, a charity has claimed, warning that more such cases could arise in the coming weeks and months.
The 14 June blaze at the 24-storey residential block in Kensington, London, left around 80 people dead, some 70 more injured and hundreds homeless. The fire continued to rage for days, destroying hundreds of homes.
But according to Silence of Suicide founder Yvette Greenway, the tragedy continues to take its toll on those who experienced it.
She told the BBC that many residents were unable to get images of the fire accident “out of their minds”.
“There is a lot of alcohol and drug dependency. People are feeling isolated”, she said.
The council has provided mental health services to survivors, but Greenway said they were inadequate and did not have the confidence of Grenfell residents.
“We’ve been told workers are going around putting leaflets under hotel doors and not actually speaking to people”, she said.
“There are going to be many more instances of PTSD, depression, anxiety and self-harming as people reach different stages of trauma. Everybody will be affected at different times.
“We need long-term mental health provision for the next three decades at least — maybe longer”, she warned.
Judy Bolton, a nurse who is now coordinating volunteers for the Justice4Grenfell charity, also verified the 20 suicide attempts claim.
Bolton said survivors urgently need counselling and the mental health support on offer needs to be rethought.
“There just isn’t the proper psychiatric help that people need”, she said, adding that survivors were self-medicating to deal with the trauma.
“We were flooded with drug dealers praying on the traumatised. People saw their neighbours falling from a burning building.
“They saw children being dropped from the building. There are ashes still blowing over us when the train goes past. We’re being covered in the ash of our dead friends and relatives”, she said.
Survivors have sought other methods to cope with their trauma. Last week dozens of residents, along with neighbours and family members, took a group holiday trip to Cornwall. They enjoyed the beach and local attractions but also took part in group therapy sessions.
Hanan Wahani, who used to live on the ninth floor of Grenfell Tower, lost her brother’s family-of-five in the fire. The primary school teacher and mother-of-two told the Evening Standard that the “calm and gentle atmosphere” of Cornwall encouraged her to let out her pain.
“I will forever remember what happened to us and our devastating loss, but being in Cornwall encouraged me to recall the good memories I shared with those I lost”, she said.