On the night of 14th June 2017, a fire engulfed the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in west London, killing at least 71 people and injuring many more. An entire community was destroyed.
For many people affected by this tragedy, the psychological scars may never heal.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that affects many people who have endured traumatic events, leaving them unable to move on from life-changing tragedies.
In the immediate aftermath of the fire, the focus was rightly placed on providing food, shelter and health care for those left homeless – but it is important that we don’t lose sight of the psychological impact this fire will have had on its survivors.
24 Stories is an anthology of short stories, written on themes of community and hope, positive stories written by a mix of established authors such as Irvine Welsh, Christopher Brookmyre and Nina Stibbe and previously unpublished writers.
This collection will raise money for Trauma Aid UK’s newly formed sister charity Trauma Response Network who can provide specialist support for all those who need it.
The Trauma Response Network
Who are Trauma Response Network and what do they do:
The Trauma Response Network (TRN) is the result of an identified need for providing an early response to events involving mass trauma in the UK. Similar networks already exist in the US and some European countries for providing Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) trauma therapy to those who find themselves victims of terrorist attacks, natural disasters and other trauma incidents, such as the Grenfell Towers fire, involving large numbers of people.
The TRN grew from the humanitarian responses of EMDR psychological trauma therapists in the UK who wanted to oﬀer their expertise to assist these traumatised people. The network started out as a list of volunteer therapists drawn from membership of Trauma Aid UK, a charity dedicated to providing EMDR trauma training to front line mental health workers in underserved traumatised communities worldwide. The various EMDR humanitarian assistance programmes have been working worldwide for many years and have a history of helping the most vulnerable in war torn countries - many of which the Grenfell survivors have come from, for example, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Bosnia and Pakistan.
The initial aim was to help UK and Ireland residents affected by the terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels but after the Manchester MEN Arena incident the database expanded to the vision of creating an independent organisation with the specific aim of providing a pro bono rapid response to mass trauma closer to home.
EMDR therapy is endorsed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a recommended therapy for the treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). EMDR diﬀers from other recommended trauma focused therapies in that it does not require victims to talk about or undertake prolonged re-exposure to the trauma memory and generally provides faster relief from symptoms.
The recent mass traumas in Manchester and London has highlighted a lack of provision in the NHS for EMDR delivered by regulated therapists and omission of a priority referral pathway for victims similar to that oﬀered to military veterans. Victims who have received EMDR earlier than the 3 months 'watchful waiting' time period recommended by the NHS, have mainly done so privately, thereby indicating a two-tier system of access to a NICE recommend treatment.
The TRN has been contacted by numerous organisations to bridge this gap in specialist trauma therapy, especially in the early days following a mass incident. They aim to initially screen for early symptoms of trauma, provide basic skills to help reduce distress, and provide individual EMDR therapy when required. This model of early trauma intervention in both a group and individual setting has been used successfully to help many people in countries where mass trauma is part of daily life but delivery of treatment is held back by limited resources. The TRN works on the principle that as caring professionals it is a moral responsibility to help those suﬀering and to take action in a way where we can do least harm but also the most good.
However, lack of funding for the TRN means they are limited in how many victims their volunteers can reach; which is why all profits from this project are essential for training and early treatment to those most in need.
The TRN will provide time limited EMDR intervention and its volunteers have been specifically trained in ring-fencing and treating only the recent traumatic event as distinct from earlier traumas. All volunteer therapists are accredited, or working towards accreditation, with the EMDR Association of UK and Ireland and will receive supervision from Consultants EMDR therapists to ensure they can offer Grenfell survivors the very best of trauma treatment.
The TRN won't turn anyone away at any point when survivors feel able to seek help and whatever their circumstances; particularly those unable to approach the NHS or if they have done so and are not offered EMDR therapy.
From some of the stories featured in the book
by Irvine Welsh
"She was falling off the roof of a building in New York City. It was seventeen stories high. To everybody looking over in horror, it was like a life going by. It started slowly and picked up speed as she receded from them. Now Melinda Pallister understood: how old people seemed to be lurching slowly to the grave, but that was only on the outside. Internally they were sprinting at breakneck velocity, or at least it must have felt like that, as, like now, the world uncompromisingly hurtled by in the opposite direction.
Melinda was accelerating to her death."
By Nina Stibbe
“We must’ve been in the village half a year when my mother jack-knifed the car and pony-trailer in the lane beside our house and no amount of revving and manoeuvring seemed to help. The more she inched forward the tighter the angle became. Just when she was about to scream or run away and never come back, Jim - the quiet husband of Ramona (who’d had the hot Ribena) - suddenly appeared. He jumped behind the wheel, sorted out the vehicular crisis and even patted the roofs of the half dozen or so cars queuing to get along the lane as they passed. In return my mother gave him a glass of whisky and, as far as the village was concerned, stand-up sex in the back of the trailer. And the next day someone left a bunch of white roses (secret love) at our back door.”
by John Fidler
"Yeah, you’ve probably seen me, mate. I stand on the high street most weekdays and every weekend, just near Holland and Barrett. It’s a good spot. Gold suit and raincoat, gold shoes and socks, gold hat, gold briefcase, gold shirt and tie. And of course gold paint on my face and hands - any exposed bit of skin. Used to need a tin of metallic hairspray too, but I’m bald now. Probably because of the metallic hairspray."
by Sue Barsby
"3.30am and no-one about. The illuminated Council House dome reached into the black above, the light combining with the moon to reveal his goal. He put the bag down and stood staring, his pounding heart ruining the silence. A deep breath, a little shake, and he opened the rucksack to get his skates out."
Here's an update on all things 24 Stories.
Firstly, the book. It's now being typeset so soon there will be a version that the editor and contributors can look at and make any necessary amendments. Once that's done we will be looking at a final proof and, if all things go to plan, we will be publishing on June 14th 2018, the first anniversary of the Grenfell fire.
What an incredible 3 1/2 months of bringing together 24 authors including chatting up 12 top authors from across a broad spectrum of genres as well as opening the project up as a "competition" to find 12 interesting new authors to be part of our project.
Goodness me, what an amazing response! Come the 31st July deadline we had received hundreds of entries which kept four sharp…
These people are helping to fund 24 Stories.