Sheffield mum caught up in Manchester bomb still waiting for counselling 16 months later

A Sheffield mum who was caught up in the Manchester Arena bombing has still not received the counselling she desperately needs, 16 months after the terrorist attack.

Monday, 15th October 2018, 5:51 pm
Updated Monday, 15th October 2018, 5:58 pm
Grace Beech, of Ecclesfield.

Grace Beech, aged 28, from Ecclesfield, was just metres away from an explosion which ripped through the venue's foyer after Ariana Grande's May 22, 2017 concert, killing 23.

Astonishingly, Grace and her 13-year-old sister Eliza Phillips were uninjured, but being so close to such an horrific event has left a legacy of mental trauma.

Grace Beech and her sister Eliza Phillips before the concert.

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Grace now suffers from severe anxiety, but - almost a year and a half after the bombing - has still not had even one appointment with a counsellor.

She said: 'After the bombing I had nightmares and I didn't want to leave the house. My partner says I sometimes scream in my sleep and I still have to know where all my exits are in big places.

'In the army they expect things like this to happen and yet they get counselling as soon as they leave. But I have been pushed to one side.

'I know what happened will always be with me but I just need some help to learn how to deal with it and manage my emotions.'

Emergency services working at the scene of the Manchester Arena Bombing. Picture: SWNS

Grace says she has also suffered with so-called survivors' guilt, where victims blame themselves for having lived through traumatic events.

'It is really hard to explain,' she says.

'Sometimes if I am having a bad day I think it must be because I survived, and that it is my punishment because I escaped death.'

Shortly after the attack, Sheffield's Increasing Access to Psychological (IAPT) gave Grace '˜four or five assessments' and said she should be seen by a counsellor '˜pretty quick'.

She was immediately put on medication for her anxiety but - well over a year since the atrocity - is yet to see a trained therapist.

Three weeks ago, she was offered an appointment with a counsellor but couldn't attend as it was when she was working.

However, when she asked the service for another time, they said one wasn't available and that they would have to take her off the list.

The day after last May's attack, Grace told the The Star it had been like a '˜horror movie' with '˜bodies and blood everywhere'.

"We just ran for our lives. We didn't know if there was going to be another explosion." she said.

"We were climbing over seats because behind us were all these dead bodies. I was screaming that we needed to get out.

'There was a massive stampede. We just wanted to get out alive."

Clive Clarke, Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Director of Operations at Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: 'Due to patient confidentiality we are unable to comment on individual cases, however, I can confirm we are in discussions with Ms Beech about her care.

'I can confirm that psychological support was offered to people who were affected by the Manchester terror attacks through NHS England.  The regional network co-ordinated extra staff and additional appointments were made available.

'Here in Sheffield we offered additional counselling and twilight appointments.  A small number of people did enter our IAPT Service following the Manchester terror attacks and additional support was made available as required.  Detailed and guidance advice was also provided to GP practices.

'The waiting times to enter our IAPT services are in line with the national standards.  90% of patients wait 6 weeks or less from referral to their first IAPT treatment appointment (the national standard is 75%). The average wait to counselling for those now receiving treatment is 51 days. 

'I can confirm that the IAPT Service does offer appointments at 3.30pm and later in the day.   The service also offers patients the opportunity to be seen at alternative GP practices to accommodate more choice and flexibility around appointment times.

'The IAPT Service does its best to accommodate choice and flexibility around appointments.'