At least 20 residents and witnesses of the terrifying block fire that engulfed London’s Grenfell Tower have attempted suicide, according to an anti-suicide group, underscoring the government’s lack of attention to the victims’ mental health.
Volunteers working with survivors of the June 14 blaze at the 24-story building in west London have confirmed the latest number, Yvette Greenway, founder of Silence of Suicide charity, told BBC on Monday.
Justice4Grenfell’s Judy Bolton also verified the figure, citing members of the campaign who have been helping the victims’ families.
Some residents have resorted to alcohol and drugs as a desperate attempt to get the images of the burning tower “out of their minds,” according to Greenway.
“There is a lot of alcohol and drug dependency,” she said. “People are feeling isolated.”
There was little to no interest among survivors to use “council-led” mental health services due to workers’ reluctance to attend to the victims.
“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 [post-traumatic stress disorder], depression, anxiety and self-harming as people reach different stages of trauma,” she noted, asking for the years to come.
“We need long-term mental health provision for the next three decades at least… maybe longer,” Greenway said.
Bolton, a nurse of 20 years, who has been working voluntarily with Justice4Grenfell, told BBC that mental health services needed to go to the victims instead of waiting for them to seek help.
Depression, survivor guilt and feeling unable to cope with the loss of loved ones were some of the pressing issues that the nurse said required prompt attention from the authorities.
“There just isn’t the proper psychiatric help that people need,” she said. “They need trauma and bereavement counseling urgently.”
The lack of proper mental health support has forced some people to seek drugs and self-medication in order to “shut out the trauma,” she added, noting that the area was flooded with drug dealers.
“People saw their neighbors falling from a burning building, they saw children being dropped from the building,” Bolton said. “There are still ashes still blowing over us when the train goes past We’re being covered in the ash of our dead friends and relatives.”