LONDON: The UK’s Prince William has said child victims of traumatic events need to be treated better, in the wake of a report into the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.
Twenty-two people, including children, were killed, and 1,017 injured when Daesh supporter Salman Abedi blew himself up in the foyer of the venue after an Ariana Grande concert.
The National Emergencies Trust investigated the treatment of 200 victims all under the age of 18 at the time of the attack, and have released a report, titled “Bee the Difference,” in partnership with Lancaster University.
In it, children revealed they were told they should view the experience as “positive,” adding that some, including teachers and medical staff, said it would “make them stronger” for having endured and survived “hardship.”
One said that they “poured their heart out to a GP” but the doctor rejected their treatment request. They added: “I was 15 and she (the doctor) said that, in the two years it would have taken for her to get me into CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services), I would then be 17 and probably feeling a lot better.”
Another reported that they had been told by a tutor “not many young people experience hardships nowadays.” They said: “This felt totally insensitive, so I didn’t return.”
The report added that while 75 percent of the victims of the blast had experienced psychological injury and 93 percent said they needed mental and emotional support, 70 percent received no professional help within the first month, 31 percent within the first year, and that 29 percent were yet to receive any — with 40 percent saying support was never offered.
Among those who did receive help, a number said the process had “inadvertently introduced more trauma,” because of having to wait so long for help and then being forced to relive their experiences.
Prince William, the patron of the National Emergencies Trust, said the young people needed “the space to have their voices heard and feelings acknowledged.”
He added: “We must listen to their stories now, in order to learn for the future. I look forward to seeing the change that it creates.”
One victim who gave evidence for the report, Yasmine Lee, 12 at the time of the bombing, said help for her physical injuries was swift, but that was not the case for mental health support.
“It wasn’t until about nine or 10 months later that I filled out a survey that was sent out by the Greater Manchester Resilience Hub, and they were like, ‘we think you should start getting some support,’” she told The Independent.
“It’s so much harder being a child because you’re still trying to grasp what the world looks like. If something like that happened to me now, I would have reacted completely differently. I wasn’t aware of terrorism as a whole, you never think it’s going to happen to you,” she added.
Yasmine, now a university student, said she subsequently built support networks with other victims, but added she was shocked that other survivors, who had not received physical injuries, “weren’t getting what I was getting” in terms of mental health assistance.
Another victim, Ruby Bradbourne, who was 11 at the time, said she struggled to receive support in the aftermath of the attack.
“They just told me to fill out this questionnaire, which didn’t help me in any way. I had to wait for months for counselling, and when I had it, I felt like I didn’t need it ... I just felt like I had to keep it to myself.
“I don’t want anyone else to go through anything like that, especially at such a young age,” Bradbourne added.
Dr. Cath Hill, lead researcher at Lancaster University, told The Guardian: “The findings (of the report) show that the simple act of validating young people’s views can make a huge difference to their wellbeing, and is something all adults in positions of care could be more mindful of should the worst happen again.”
She said that six proposals set out in the report to reform how services are offered to young mental trauma victims would “prevent children from having to relive their trauma time and again.”
A spokesperson for the Greater Manchester Resilience Hub said: “The hub was set up within seven weeks following the attack, with staff from all four Greater Manchester mental health trusts. It was and still is the fastest large-scale mental health response to such an incident in UK history.
“More than 700 individuals were supported within the first few days, and then were prioritised under the psychological screening within the first few weeks. They included those people physically injured, bereaved families, and those on the police witness list that the police believed were experiencing psychological distress.
“We have supported over 3,800 individuals, more than 1,000 under-18s, and more than 500 family units,” the spokesperson added.
A spokesperson for the UK government said: “The government has worked to strengthen the support available to victims of terrorism, but we know there is still more to do.
“The Home Office Victims of Terrorism Unit is currently conducting an internal review into the support package provided to victims of terrorism, to better address their needs following a terrorist attack.”