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In the aftermath of terrible events like the Grenfell Tower fire and the recent London and Manchester terror attacks, it’s so important people get the support they need.

Sarah Davidson, head of psychosocial at the British Red Cross, explains how we can support ourselves and our loved ones in times of trauma.

What happened in the early hours of Wednesday morning was shocking and hugely traumatic for those directly involved, as well as the firefighters and paramedics who responded so bravely.

They will need time and support to recover.

But it’s also important to recognise that members of the local and wider communities will also have been impacted, with reverberations felt across the nation and beyond.

How we come together to support each other at times like this is so important in shaping how we will cope in the short, medium and long term.

While few of us are likely to forget the scenes we have witnessed, most people will not be traumatised and will not need professional help.

But for those who do, it’s important to know where to find it.

The importance of social support

As well as housing and the other immediate needs of those directly affected, social support is a hugely significant factor in the early stages of recovery.

Even those of us who have not been directly involved can feel impacted by what we have seen and heard.

Being in touch with friends and family can make all the difference, as can speaking to someone who is able to listen without judgement. People experiencing significant distress should seek help from their GP.

There are also a number of helplines available:

  • Samaritans (116 123)
  • Cruse National Helpline (0808 808 1677)
  • Mind Infoline (0300 123 3393)
  • Victim Support Helpline (0808 1689 111).

The Red Cross helpline is also available for anyone who has been affected by the Grenfell Tower fire and is in need of support – 0800 4589472 (free from landlines and mobiles) open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

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A listening ear

We can all support one another by showing empathy, demonstrating care, consideration and taking the time to listen.

Sometimes people are afraid to ask others how they are in case they make the situation worse. But usually providing the opportunity for people to share how they are feeling can be very helpful.

Responses such as anger, grief and shock are all normal. So too are fears that the same event will happen again, and the thought that the world is a much less safer place.

Both children and adults may experience nightmares and intrusive thoughts or images that relate to the event.

Children and young people may experience a range of difficulties.

These may include worries about their safety and the safety of those around them. This might lead them to worry about being separated from those they love most (called separation anxiety).

They may develop emotional responses such as sadness, numbness, irritability and guilt.

Physical responses such as headaches, tiredness, stomach aches, sleeping and eating difficulties, and problems concentrating can all occur as well.

Both children and adults may prefer to avoid reminders of the events. Avoiding reminders can sometimes be protective, especially when there are a lot of upsetting details in the media.

However we react to trauma, it’s important to remember to not be embarrassed by our responses. They are normal reactions to a very stressful event, and they will usually reduce over time.

Some will experience delayed reactions in the weeks and months ahead.

We must, in the longer term, continue to ensure they have access to the support they need, whether that be from professionals or from their wider community.

All images © MattPercival/BrtishRedCross.

This blog was updated on 11 August 2017