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'At least 20 suicide attempts' after Grenfell Tower fire, faith leader claims

Community urges Kensington and Chelsea Council to put more money into mental health services

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Wednesday 26 July 2017 21:25 BST
A man speaks during an earlier public meeting between Grenfell residents and authorities
A man speaks during an earlier public meeting between Grenfell residents and authorities (PA Wire/PA Images)

Faith leaders have urged Kensington and Chelsea Council to invest more in mental health services after a reported spike in suicide attempts following the Grenfell Tower fire.

At least 20 people have tried to take their lives in north Kensington since the blaze on 14 June, Sikh leader Bhupinder Singh claimed.

Speaking at a public meeting chaired by the Government's gold command, he said one attempt at the weekend had been successful.

Mr Singh volunteers with the Latimer Street Food Project every night after 7pm providing hot meals to local people.

He told the meeting his team was working on "suicide prevention" and urged the council to intervene, telling leader Elizabeth Campbell it was her responsibility.

"You are so out of touch, it's disgusting," he told the panel, comprising representatives from police and fire services, and local government.

Wednesday's public meeting was the fourth open forum discussion with the Grenfell response team since the tragedy that claimed at least 80 lives.

Residents issued fresh calls for better mental health provision for the surrounding community.

Grenfell council's new leader rejects calls to quit

One, from a nearby block, told the panel: "We are the silent victims of this tragedy."

He said living in the shadow of the tower, with no support and little information, had left him and others at "breaking point".

"Some residents have had enough, they have seriously had enough...I have had enough," he said.

Another resident told the meeting Government needed to resource mental health care over the long term, saying: "These are lifelong problems."

One man asked the panel if it was possible he was suffering multiple, repeated traumas by passing in front of the tower every day and reliving the experience.

"Each time we walk around this place we see an edifice, that reminds me of what happened on 14 June, of the police man stopping me from rescuing anyone I could save," he said.

"Do you think that the collective mental health of the people in this room is the same?"

One volunteer urged the panel to do more for the families of the dead who live outside the borough, who she said were "completely isolated" and lacking support.

Council commissioning director Rachel Turner-Wright promised to do more for survivors and affected residents and, along with Ms Campbell, promised to visit anyone who felt they were not being properly supported.

The meeting struck a decidedly more conciliatory tone than previous gatherings.

But despite its smooth running, both Ms Campbell and her newly appointed deputy Kim Taylor-Smith faced new calls to resign.

Mr Taylor-Smith said he would not step down and if the community didn't like his efforts, they could vote him out in May.

"Resign, resign, resign. I'm not going to resign because someone needs to step up and take this chance, and if I don't deliver on this there are elections in May and you can vote me out," he told residents.

The father of Jessica Urbano, the 12-year-old who lost her life in the blaze, also addressed the meeting.

He asked the panel why the death toll remained at 80, and repeated his disbelief that so few could have died in the blaze.

Police commander Ellie O'Connor said she did not wish to be "graphic" but that the identification efforts had been very challenging.

She said families would be updated if that number changed, and promised: "We will not cover this up."

  • The Samaritans offer a confidential ear to those in who need it, 24 hours a day. Call free from any phone on 116 123.

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