More than 500 children have been referred for mental health treatment following the Grenfell Tower fire, according to the latest NHS figures obtained by Sky News.
They show that in the past year a total of 521 children and 2,006 adults have been seen by health teams in the area.
More than 1,600 people have been identified as being in urgent need of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.
The NHS has been running services in Kensington since the fire, visiting local schools to support children who need help and talking to concerned parents.
Dr Sara Northey, a clinical psychologist who runs the children’s services at the Grenfell Health and Wellbeing clinics, says the scale of the trauma is unprecedented.
She said: “The trauma is affecting the entire community, entire families.
“It’s had a massive, unprecedented effect in terms of the number of people who have been affected.
“There’s obviously the people who were living in the tower and the bereaved but this is a tight knit community and many children witnessed the fire, many of them have lost friends and teachers.”
Dr Northey says many of the children are regressing and showing signs of PTSD.
“They’re experiencing flashbacks and intrusive memories of the night,” she said.
“Problems sleeping and concentrating at school and with the little ones, so under five years old, there are cases of separation anxiety and bed wetting.
“Children are not wanting to go to bed without their parents.
“We have definitely seen the symptoms change over time, which is normal.
“In the early days people were shocked and upset and over time more people are coming forward to say ‘now my child does need some help’.”
Piers Thompson and his family, who have lived next to Grenfell Tower for 13 years, can see the block in full view from their backdoor.
He said: “It’s very difficult to live next to a burnt out building and see it every day.
“My family have been getting regular and serious counselling. My 14-year-old daughter is on antidepressants now.
“We are coping, all we can do is cope, day by day.”
Only last week, charred insulation from the tower fell into Mr Thompson’s garden – something he says has been a regular occurrence over the past year.
“We sort of got used to it, that’s how absurd it is.
“It’s a real memory of the night which our daughter finds deeply upsetting.”
Linda Rose, a volunteer who is qualified in youth and community work and spent many years providing therapy for children in Sri Lanka after the tsunami in 2004, has witnessed the impact the fire has had on people’s mental health.
For the past year, she has travelled to the Kensington area from her home in Derbyshire most weeks to provide support to families who are deeply traumatised.
She says she never imagined she would still be needed.
“If people were starting to heal I could kind of wean myself off and keep in touch but we are still fighting, still writing letters,” she said. “We are really concerned about people’s mental health and whether they’re going to live or die.
“Things have not got better – since Christmas I feel like I have been in a hamster wheel.”
Linda says she sees many people who are suicidal.
“People are struggling to keep going and to find a future.
“The problem with suicide is that it is underestimated.
“People are carrying a massive burden and it’s not about wanting to die but struggling to live, and small things can put people over the edge.”
She added: “You would expect people would be a lot better and on to a new phase in their lives but the reality is many people are more ill than when they came out of the tower.
“The process has been so draining and navigating the system has been an absolute nightmare.”
:: If you need free and confidential help relating to the trauma of the fire, the Grenfell Health and wellbeing Outreach Team can be contacted on 020 8962 4393 (10am to 8pm).
From – SkyNews