Why we need to discuss mental health on the anniversary of the Manchester Arena attack


Mental health is something Her Majesty the Queen is very aware of; she has spoken previously about the psychological repercussions of suicide attacks and how they may lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In particular, in the days following the attack last year, she discussed how the young children in Manchester caught up in the bombings may potentially be affected.

With Tuesday 22nd marking the one-year anniversary since the terror attack on Manchester Arena during an Ariana Grande concert, the conversation of PTSD is of even greater importance. As we think back to the 22 individuals who lost their lives and the 59 people who were injured from the bomb, it’s also important to think of those who survived, but were left with an indelible mark on their lives. Even where they may not have been physically injured, the potential for mental scars remain.

Often, post-traumatic stress disorder can arise after experiencing or witnessing a threat to life. It can happen to anyone, no matter what, after enduring a terrible event in their life. This may also include losing a loved one, sexual assaults, serious road accidents, robberies, or violent attacks.

Although there is still room for more studies into how events such as the Manchester Arena bombing can lead to the development of PTSD for survivors, there is certainly an awareness of the risks to the mental health of all those impacted in the weeks, months and years afterwards. Sometimes it can take a long time to show itself – and occasionally, it can impact people who weren’t even there but who have felt emotionally affected; for example, if they normally work at the arena or if they knew a victim of the attacks through school or work.

PTSD can affect a number of different people, from the direct victims, to the 21,000 people who were attending the concert, the emergency services who helped deal with the aftermath, the cleaners who had to get the arena back to working status, and the friends and family affected.

As The Sun reported in 2017, it was warned by experts that up to one in three survivors were at risk of PTSD, showing just how vast a problem this could be. This could show itself through nightmares and flashbacks, feelings of guilt and irritability, anxiety or isolation, to name a few.

In April 2018, it was reported by The Times that more than 1,000 Greater Manchester police officers and support workers – making up almost one in 10 of the force’s staff overall – used mental health services following the bombings. A total of 12 officers and staff were diagnosed with PTSD, while eight needed to take time off sick. This may have included frontline officers, forensic teams and morgue workers.

In these situations, the most important thing is that we all talk about how natural it is to experience post-traumatic stress disorder, and that it isn’t something to be ashamed of. One of the best things that can be done is to speak out to a close family member, friend, doctor or trained counsellor to start the healing process. It may have triggered other mental health conditions, which will have manifested as a result – for example, anxiety, depression, insomnia, eating disorders, etc.

Ultimately, for anyone concerned that they may be experiencing PTSD, seeking help is vital. You can book an appointment with your GP, especially if symptoms persist for longer than a month. There is treatment available, and it isn’t something you need to experience alone.

If you were affected by the Manchester attack, you can get more information here: manchesterattacksupport.org.uk


REFERENCES: The Times, The Sun, Manchester Evening News

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