Our first SOS Silence of Suicide meeting ‘A Safe Space to Talk’, held in conjunction with Justice4Grenfell Campaign Umbrella Group alongside Grenfell Volunteers took place yesterday, Saturday 15 July 2017 at the Harrow Club, London.
Michael and I have met a good many people affected by the Grenfell atrocity on our visits to London recently and we were delighted to welcome more new faces yesterday.
A slow trickle turned into a steady and healthy attendance for our first SOS meeting, with a 100% demand for our return on a regular basis, demonstrating, yet again, how the power of communication and engagement can have a positive effect on those going through trauma and/or struggling with their mental wellbeing.
It’s not just about the talking though. Whilst people feel unburdened by speaking out, the value of listening cannot be dis-regarded. Hearing others voice exactly what you are feeling and thinking, or sharing a different viewpoint, is welcomed, understood and entirely supported. It is about the HUMAN RIGHTS we all have to speak freely and be heard. And whilst not everyone agrees with each other, there is a healthy respect and unity that is truly phenomenal.
There can be no doubt – despite the trauma of the atrocity, the grief and all the socioeconomic issues, these people are fighters to the very core.
We felt humbled that so many attended yesterday. There were many that didn’t. And this was explained to us. There is a huge lack of trust amongst those affected. And with good reason. The whole atrocity should never have happened, it didn’t need to happen and there’s a strong and unified belief by the immediate and surrounding residents, that they are considered ‘dirt’, ‘second class citizens’ and ‘not worthy’. So, any ‘outsider’ offering assistance and support is viewed with uncertainty and suspicion.
It is up to us to prove ourselves to the community, by being there and providing a continuity and consistency of confidential service and support
There were some terrible stories told, from those who were on the phone to loved ones as the cyanide laden smoke and flames enveloped them to those who watched screaming children banging at windows surrounded by fire. Then there were those who saw people jump from the terror behind them and children being thrown out of windows – some, sadly, were not caught.
This is not a Hollywood epic blockbuster, but a real life atrocity. Unless you were there, you cannot totally comprehend the horrors that the community was subjected to.
There were moments when the discussion deviated slightly. For the first meeting, this is to be expected. People are despairing at not being heard and the injustices they’re subjected to remaining unseen and the need to express their thoughts on the politics surrounding the atrocity to people who listen are care is hardly surprising. However, things were quickly back on track, with everyone given the opportunity to say how and what they were feeling in psychological terms.
Some feedback sheets were handed out, with the option of anonymity given. Not all who attended completed the form and some of those who did only responded to certain questions.
However, we take some positive conclusions from the information gathered from completed forms, such as:
- 100% felt the SOS meeting was beneficial to them
- 100% want regular SOS meetings either weekly, bi-weekly or monthly
- 100% felt they were in a safe and secure environment
- Over 90% believed the meeting was either ‘extremely’ or ‘quite’ good
- The main benefits (in no particular order) from the meeting were: a) Feeling safe b) That they were not alone c) Feeling their voices were being heard d) Listening to others viewpoints and e) freedom of speech f) fully comprehending how broken people, families and communities are post atrocity
- The age group was mixed, from under 16 to OAP generations
- This was a multi cultural meeting
- There was a healthy mix of male and female attendees
Some other important points people noted were:
On average, it was 3 weeks after the atrocity before any mental wellbeing help was offered, but people had to travel.
The main mental health issues people now find themselves dealing with include Anxiety, Anger, Grief, PTSD, Depression and Insomnia, with Anxiety topping the list.
Everyone involved in our first Grenfell SOS was impacted by this meeting. It was profound in many ways.
We ended it by forming a large circle and holding hands, knowing that comfort isn’t always gained from words alone, but by the proximity and touch of another human being.
Despite the sadness, and tears of sorrow, we experienced tears of joy too. This is the beginning of our combined efforts to ensure trust grows and unity develops.
RIP to all those who perished at Grenfell.