14 June 2022
Unprecedented tragedies bring unforeseen trauma. The devastating fire that struck Grenfell Tower five years ago was a tragic event. It shattered and changed the lives of its residents, resulting in needless tragedy for many. It also inflicted a long-lasting impact on the mental health of the emergency service workers who dedicated hours, days and weeks in rescue and relief operations.
Many of them continue to receive professional support to cope with the trauma and conditions of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Looking back at the lessons learnt from the deadly incident, Police Federation of England and Wales (PFEW) Wellbeing Lead, Belinda Goodwin, believes forces in general have got far better at recognising the impact of trauma, and understanding that exposure to continuous trauma has a real impact on every police officer’s mental health.
“The tragic fire at Grenfell Tower saw officers called to assist firefighters. Their duties on that evening were unprecedented and these very same officers are today living with the effects of that harrowing night,” she said.
“Our members were also called upon to conduct body recoveries at Grenfell - this is not unusual around the country for such incidents. This illustrates that officers can be exposed to horrific trauma constantly and consistently and must then deal with the impact this has on their mental health.”
To better prepare police forces when faced with such horrific incidents, she said, “PFEW would like to see further work done around prevention and with officers at the recruitment stage. By doing this, interventions can occur on a regular basis and coping mechanisms and support can be offered at the earliest stage.
“There are ways that trauma exposure can be recorded. The software is available, but forces are not investing as much as we would like. PFEW has worked on a police trauma checklist - and is continuing to develop this with our research department - that will hopefully lead to forces collating exposure data.
“A further issue is PTSD diagnosis. This currently must be done via an NHS psychiatrist which can take months - surely there must be a quicker way of doing this? It is encouraging that PTSD is recognised as a risk to our officers, but there is still further work for forces to do regarding prevention and identifying what that support looks like.”