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Thursday, 21 August 2014

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Difficult memories will take a long time to heal – doctors

THE inquest into the Cumbria shootings could awaken difficult memories – but health chiefs say help remains at-hand.

Derrick Bird killed 12 people and injured 11 more during the shootings in places including Lamplugh, Frizington, Whitehaven, Egremont, Gosforth and Seascale on June 2.

Nine months on from the horror and many of those affected are reliving that day as the inquest into the deaths is held.

The impact these experiences could have on people is something health bosses in Cumbria are acutely aware of.

And they say extra support is available for anyone who may feel under added strain as the inquests continue.

Rebecca Wagstaff, deputy director of public health at NHS Cumbria, said: “Inquests can be upsetting and painful, particularly for those who have some kind of link with the shootings. I would be surprised if it didn’t rekindle feelings among those people.

“You have to go back and relive some of it at the inquest. Even just following it on the news will bring back those memories.

“It is totally normal for people to start feeling upset again – feelings they may have had at the time. We are all different and behave differently under stress.”

Common emotions following the shootings included feeling frightened, horrified, helpless, angry, confused or overwhelmed.

People may also have experienced disturbed sleep and nightmares – all short-term responses which usually reduce over time. To help respond to a new possible need in the wake of the inquest, health experts are focusing attention again in West Cumbria and the Red Cross will have emotional support available in communities affected.

Anyone finding it difficult to cope with day-to-day responsibilities is being encouraged not to bottle things up.

Dr Wagstaff said: “The most helpful thing is to speak to someone – perhaps a member of your family, a friend or someone from your church, if you go to church. Others may feel more comfortable talking to a doctor. A small number of people will then want to get some other help. That is quite a small number, though. Most of us just need someone sympathetic to listen.

“If you know someone impacted in any way, just let them know you’re there for them and will listen.”

People who feel unable to speak to a friend or family member should speak firstly to their GP.

If they’d prefer, they can access health services by calling a psychological support helpline or Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s First Step Service.

Callers will be able to arrange to speak to a trained expert on the phone. If necessary, an appointment will be arranged to provide specialist ongoing support.

Jane Muller, Cumbria’s associate director of public health, said: “It is important people allow themselves space to deal with these feelings, while also knowing when to seek help. Do not suffer in silence.”

For help call: Emotional Response Helpline – 01946 523666 (9am-5pm Monday-Friday).

Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s First Step Service – 0300 123 9122 (9am-5pm Monday-Friday).

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