Thirteen years on from the July 2005 London bombings, it seems we have made little progress when it comes to supporting victims of terror with the subsequent mental health issues that tend to arise after surviving an attack.
According to a survey released by the campaign group Survivors Against Terror, of which I am a part, hundreds of survivors of terror attacks claim to have received no mental health support due to the NHS crisis.
As a survivor myself, I am deeply saddened by the outcome of the report. It does, however, come as little surprise to me, as this is incredibly reflective of my personal experience after surviving 7/7.
I received no support at all. The only contact I had after 7/7 was with the police, which was, in fact, detrimental to my recovery. There was little consideration for what I had just experienced; I was deeply traumatised, and was expected to answer police questions, made to feel as though I had done something wrong. While I appreciate that the police are required to do their job and needed to speak to survivors, the manner in which this was done was highly insensitive.
As time went on it became increasingly apparent that as my mental health deteriorated, there would be no access to the support I needed. I was unable to eat or sleep, had terrible nightmares and flashbacks and was unable to travel on public transport for fear of having anxiety attacks. I was forced – as many have noted in the report – to access private treatment, a huge financial burden.
The injuries I sustained weren’t visible and as result, weren’t prioritised. At the time, widespread mental health provision for people in my situation simply did not exist, and as a result I was required to seek support out for myself.
This made the circumstances even more difficult, and placed a great amount of pressure on my family who supported me endlessly. To this day, I still struggle with all of the side effects of having survived 7/7, but have still been offered no support.
We have been consistently promised by successive governments that support for survivors of terror attacks will improve, but this report shows that little progress has been made in the past 13 years, and the mental health support required remains inaccessible at the most important time.
Surviving trauma has deeply varying impacts on an individual’s mental health. It requires immediate, personalised and effective long-term care; the longer we allow survivors to suffer on their own, the more prominent underlying issues become, and in many cases it can have devastating effects, including the risk of suicide.
Overall, this is a symptom of a wider issue, of a society that is not protecting the most vulnerable, as well as an overstretched and underfunded mental health service.
Survivors like myself are being consistently let down and treated with disregard by the government. But it shouldn’t be too much to ask that 13 years after 7/7, and considering the wider stigma surrounding mental health, that we treat survivors with the dignity and respect they deserve.
It is glaringly apparent that swift action needs to be taken to ensure that the survivors of terror attacks receive the treatment they require. In the meantime, the only hope I can cling on to, is the possibility that this report will influence change, and terror survivors will no longer have to suffer as I and many others have.
Sajda Mughal OBE is chief executive of JAN Trust
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