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A charity born out of the Manchester Arena bombing is providing an emergency online platform for rapid, free ‘mental health first aid’ in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Trauma Response Network (TRN) was founded by Sean Gardner, a businessman caught up in the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert, and therapists specialising in Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) to offer online support – up to eight free therapy sessions – in the aftermath of a mass trauma event.
In partnership with the EMDR Association UK, TRN will have up to 300 EMDR therapists trained in delivering the therapy online for people suffering with mental health issues triggered by the current crisis from Tuesday 14 April. TRN is set to prioritise NHS and key workers if overwhelmed with demand. The hope is, subject to funding, to provide many more therapists to meet the expected need.
With soaring death rates, the strain of social isolation and widespread financial hardship, therapists warn the impact on the UK’s mental health will be enormous, yet there is a major gap in therapeutic provision.
‘The coronavirus is a mass trauma event like none we have ever seen before. The evidence is that the earlier symptoms of trauma can be addressed, the more the potential impact can be reduced, but emergency ‘mental health first aid’ is not available widely to people right now in the way that hospitals are being equipped to support those infected with COVID-19,’ says Susan Darker-Smith, EMDR therapist and founding member of Trauma Response Network.
EMDR is endorsed by the World Health Organization, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, and is available on the NHS. It’s practised in around 30 countries and has helped millions worldwide, including responding to disasters across the globe through 60 trauma recovery networks.
Sean Gardner suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder following the Manchester Arena bombing when he had to search for his daughter amongst the injured and dying.
He says: ‘I was left stranded without mental health support as were many others after the Manchester and London attacks and Grenfell Tower disaster. I don’t want the same thing to happen to people during the current crisis. Many will have lost their livelihoods, some their loved ones, or they may be feeling very vulnerable and need somewhere to turn for help, not least those who already had mental health issues which have become acute in the current climate.’
Following the Manchester bombing Sean suffered from severe flashbacks and mood swings and couldn’t sleep. He was referred to mental health services by his GP and filled in a questionnaire which found he was not suicidal.
He adds: I was told to wait and see whether the symptoms got worse over a period of three months. I sought help privately, and that’s when I was diagnosed with PTSD. After a few sessions of EMDR – a powerful therapy which specialises in treating people with mental health conditions brought on by trauma – I greatly improved.’
Accessing EMDR therapy through TRN is simple. People fill in a contact form and a therapist invites them to join an appointment online. Up to eight free therapy sessions are offered over the following 12 weeks.
TRN uses advanced Microsoft technology to provide therapy securely online. The background will be blurred so the client’s home cannot be seen, the session recorded and any documents exchanged are privacy protected. EMDR is a complex therapeutic process that must be delivered by accredited therapists.
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