Survivors of Manchester Arena terror attack demand urgent mental health reforms

Report calls for victims to receive help within weeks

Dr Stuart Murray and Figen Murray are campaigning for reforms following the Manchester Arena terror attack. PA
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Survivors of the Manchester Arena attack warned of major gaps in mental health support in a new report.

Sunday is the fifth anniversary of the attack in which 22 people lost their lives and more than 1,000 were injured after ISIS suicide bomber Salman Abedi blew himself up at the end of an Ariana Grande concert.

A report from Survivors Against Terror recommends urgent changes to mental health support for survivors of terror attacks, including a new guarantee of three weeks for triage and access to relevant services within six weeks.

The report’s lead author, Dr Stuart Murray, lost his 29-year-old stepson, Martyn Hett, in the attack.

“It saddens me that there is not a desire to learn further from what has and still is happening to us,” he said.

“It frustrates me that some members of my family struggled early on to find a therapist who fully understood the impact of what had happened and the needs they had, and that in the beginning we had to pay privately as there were no NHS resources available.

“Whilst we have received offers of support from many people along the way, there remains a lack of co-ordination between the different mental health and supportive agencies. More importantly, there has been a total lack of continuity.”

He is calling on the government to create a Survivor's Charter to guarantee help for victims within six weeks.

“Terror attacks are designed to undermine our collective mental health and it’s outrageous that we aren’t even caring properly for those most directly affected,” he said.

The report adds that warning signs about services were first raised in 2003 in the Legacy Study, which focused on the needs of survivors of the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland.

Dr Murray said a review of the 2005 London bombings also found that access to specialist services was inconsistent and that there was a lack of central planning in addition to widespread failure to share data.

In 2018, Survivors Against Terror, in partnership with Kantar, commissioned a survey that discovered 76 per cent of survivors said mental health services required improvement.

The report is calling for a centralised register of UK resident survivors of terror attacks to enable proactive screening and follow-up help.

It says mental health provision must be available to children and families, and urges the government to invest in research to understand and learn more about the best treatment and therapies for survivors.

Dr Murray says existing healthcare service providers also need more training and education in the recognition and management of issues after a major terrorist incident.

Figen Murray, Martyn Hett's mother, has been separately campaigning for the introduction of a legal duty on venues to provide security measures to prevent terror attacks.

Updated: May 21, 2022, 2:30 PM