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The thoughts and views of the team of peace builders here at the Peace Centre

Supporting victims of terror: The SENSE model

In the aftermath of a terrorist incident, there is often confusion amongst front-line professionals and those who have been affected as to when and how...

In the aftermath of a terrorist incident, there is often confusion amongst front-line professionals and those who have been affected as to when and how to provide social support to victims of terror, and when a referral to clinical services should be made. This confusion may lead to variation in the care and support that is offered to those who have been affected, depending on their location and the organisations and professionals they encounter following the incident. Reinforcing Resilience Encouragingly, there is evidence emerging from experts in the field who suggest that the rates of post-traumatic stress disorder amongst victims of terror is no higher than those who are affected by other traumatic events. These same experts urge that a shift in focus is required, from an emphasis on vulnerability to reinforcing the resilience of those affected; rather than assuming high levels of trauma we should recognise the potential for coping, adjustment and recovery. Introducing SENSE At the same time, the National Institute of Clinical Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recognises the need for the ‘active monitoring’ of symptoms and for early referral to mental health services should symptoms worsen or not improve within a four to six-week watchful waiting period. Drawing on the recommendations of the NICE guidelines and the growing literature on trauma-informed practice, the SENSE model was established in response to the Manchester Arena attack in May 2017.  It provides a framework for social support in the immediate aftermath of a terror incident and over the longer term, and is referenced by our survivors assistance network in their support of victims and survivors. The model comprises of five key interventions in working with victims: Stabilisation Education Normalisation Social support Engagement The order of the letters in creating the word ‘sense’, also reflect the chronology in which the interventions should be offered. The five interventions focus on addressing the immediate practical and emotional needs of those affected and providing education and information to enable and empower people to monitor their own symptoms (or those of their family members). The next stage is to reassure victims and survivors that their experiences in the immediate aftermath are entirely normal, to reduce any sense of panic or feelings of distress. In addition, the model seeks to encourage the rallying of a person’s wider social support networks in recognition of the key role that friends and family will play in a person’s recovery. The final stage, ‘engagement’ is focused on facilitating the early referral to specialist support services (such as mental health services) as part of the ongoing process of active monitoring.  This would be initiated after the watchful waiting period has passed and the first four interventions have been offered to enable a focus on resilience, building strengths and supporting coping in the first instance. Clarity Empowers The increasing attention which has been paid to mental health and psychological wellbeing following an incident of terror may cause confusion and panic amongst survivors, their families and front-line professionals about if, when and...

Preventing violent extremism is all about fairness

Another day, another article about the Prevent strand of the Government’s counter terrorism strategy, CONTEST. In his commentary (published in the Conversation 18th December 2018),...

Another day, another article about the Prevent strand of the Government’s counter terrorism strategy, CONTEST. In his commentary (published in the Conversation 18th December 2018), Julian Hargreaves, Research Fellow at the Woolf Institute and Research Associate at St Edmund's College, University of Cambridge concludes that Prevent remains unfair on British Muslims, despite Home Office efforts. Such a conclusion is not new and is often used by detractors of Prevent who sway from the lazy rhetoric trotting out words like ‘toxic brand’ through to others, like Julian, who take a more considered view.  Of course, repetition makes a fact seem more true or memorable, but we also know that “repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth” – the first rule of propaganda often attributed to the Nazi Joseph Goebbels.  This is known as the "illusion of truth" effect and perhaps poignant that an extreme right-wing violent extremist is associated with such a technique. The question for me is that the naysayers of Prevent are sometimes doing the same, when our energies really need to be on the end game and that is preventing violent extremism and tackling the causes. Julian sets out a fair critique and indeed points out that Prevent has become more transparent.  But the conclusion again fails to look at the whole picture. In his recent update on the number of live terror related investigations in the UK, head of national counterterror policing, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, told the Home Affairs Committee it numbered a record of 700.  He stated that Islamists and the far-right “feed each other.”  He said around 80 per cent of investigations by Police and MI5 were looking into Islamist inspired and 20 per cent “other”, including a “significant proportion from the right wing. “There is no doubt whatsoever in my mind that the two ideologies, both perverse, are feeding each other.” Neil Basu He also said: “The overriding threat to the UK remains from those inspired by Daesh and the resurgent al-Qaeda, but our operations reflect a much broader range of dangerous ideologies, including very disturbingly rising extreme right-wing activity.” He reported that 17 attacks had been foiled since 2017 – 13 Islamist (76%) and four far-right (24%). Prevent is a highly targeted strand of CONTEST, responding to risk and threat.  So, whilst Julian’s central point is valid and there may be ‘perceived’ unfairness, would these figures not suggest that the targeting is being driven by the evidence and that the real unfairness is created by the perpetrators. Behind this risk is a complex set of aspects that leads to such referrals. It is possible that public and public sector workers (the people who refer to Channel) are more afraid of Islamist extremism, or it is more visible, given the larger number of disrupted plots. It could be that the scale of those incidents that succeeded is more embedded in the collective psyche – ‘terrorism’ does what it says – it creates fear and generates a reaction.  Both the Manchester 2017 and...

By Mstyslav Chernov - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=45277301

Bataclan 3 years on: In our own words

by Tony Scott and Justine Merton-Scott My now wife, Justine, and I were among the British survivors lucky enough to escape the horror of the Bataclan...

by Tony Scott and Justine Merton-Scott My now wife, Justine, and I were among the British survivors lucky enough to escape the horror of the Bataclan as it was attacked by terrorists on November 13th, 2015. As the anniversary approaches, it’s not uncommon for some of us to be contacted by the media and we were approached recently to be interviewed for a piece about the 3rd anniversary of the Bataclan attack. We were reticent, to say the least, but felt it was important that it doesn’t slip from the public consciousness. It provided an opportunity to gain some exposure for The Nick Alexander Memorial Trust and the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation’s #WordsMatter campaign, both of which are very relevant in the aftermath of the Paris, London and Manchester attacks. As with such pieces it falls on the journalist and the editor to determine the angle, what gets used and what gets cut to feed the author’s narrative within the column inches allocated. That’s how journalism works and we don’t have that much control over it; it is a free press after all. However, I felt, having read the draft, I wanted to pick up the pieces from the cutting room floor and write something from the horse’s mouth, as it were, and here it is… Revisiting that night I’ll start by revisiting that night, it still feels as clear as day. We’d gone to Paris as my birthday treat. Justine had booked it and bought the tickets to see the Eagles of Death Metal. My choice, not hers, as she likes to point out. It was to be a romantic weekend getaway with a gig at Le Bataclan and a bit of sight-seeing, a few glasses of wine and soaking up the ambience of Paris. Sounds perfect. We flew into Paris that morning and had time to do a little sightseeing before heading to the gig in the evening. We’d called at a bar not far from the venue for a couple of drinks before heading to the gig at Le Bataclan. On entry it was rammed, near on full capacity. We’d normally try and get down the front but it was way too busy. Justine’s a shade under five foot so we headed up to the balcony for a better view. A decision, with hindsight, that probably helped save our lives. What happened next is well documented so I’m going to gloss over it a bit. At around 9:45pm terrorists had entered the Bataclan and started shooting. We got caught in what is often referred to as a freeze, fight, flight instinct as the amygdala kicks in, dropping to the floor and taking cover behind the seats. Moments later we went from freeze to flight on Justine’s instinct. We crawled our way behind the seats through a door at the end of the balcony and then up through a skylight and onto the roof. It was a difficult reach, particularly for Justine. People were lifting each other...

If you don’t enjoy Bonfire Night, this may help

With Hallowe’en last night and Bonfire Night on 5th November just around the corner, this time of year is often especially challenging for people who,...

With Hallowe’en last night and Bonfire Night on 5th November just around the corner, this time of year is often especially challenging for people who, like many of the people our SAN team work with, have experienced an acute stress reaction or live with PTSD. It’s important to recognise that you or those around you might find the sudden bangs and flashes distressing and to consider how you are going to prepare for this period, or respond if something unexpected happens. There are a number of good advice resources available online to help you cope during this period, including this one from MIND. Many people find using ‘Grounding’ or ‘Mindfulness’ helpful. Grounding techniques can keep you in the here-and-now and help you avoid feelings, memories, flashbacks or intrusive thoughts that you don't feel able to cope with yet. They work by focussing on the sensations you are feeling right now: Listen to other sounds around you like birdsong, or music Notice the feel of your clothes against your body; the wind against your face and the ground beneath your feet; wrapping yourself in a blanket and feeling it around you Touch something or sniff something with a strong smell like perfume or something nice to eat You might find it helpful to keep a box of things with different textures and smells (for example perfume, a blanket and some smooth stones) ready for when you need it. Consider earphones for listening to music or noise-cancelling ones to minimise the sound. It might be helpful to plan for the coming period and to consider where you will be on Bonfire Night. It could be particularly helpful to mention to family and friends how you are feeling. In the worst-case scenario, consider having an emergency plan so that people know how best to help you. With luck, all of this will prove to be unnecessary, but please take care of yourselves during this noisy time. If you would like to speak to a member of the Survivors Assistance Network team at the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation about this or anything else, please email us or ring 01925 581 240. (SAN is not a 24/7 service, but all voice messages and emails left out of office hours will be responded to the next working day. If your need is urgent, please ring 111 or 999 as appropriate). by Terry O'Hara - Survivors Assistance Network Manager

Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ are never far away for many

The challenges faced by the people of Northern Ireland have been prominent in the press lately. With the widely-reported border issues related to the Brexit...

The challenges faced by the people of Northern Ireland have been prominent in the press lately. With the widely-reported border issues related to the Brexit process, the breakdown of the Northern Ireland Executive and frequent reports of consultations to address the legacy of the ‘Troubles’ that blighted the region for decades, it seems that once again Northern Ireland and its historical conflict is in the public consciousness in a way not seen for 20 years. I grew up in England in the 1990’s and I can honestly say that I had little knowledge of the pain and the suffering caused by the ‘Troubles’. From speaking to friends and peers, it seems this is not unusual. For a long time, the problems that the people of Northern Ireland faced were just not talked about to any great degree on this side of the water. I’m sure, however, if you are a survivor or victim of the ‘Troubles’, if someone you love was killed, if you were injured or received psychological injuries as a result of a ‘Troubles’ related incident, then your awareness of the legacy of that time is inordinately painful and not something that will ever leave you. There are some amazing services in Northern Ireland offering support to some of the people mentioned above. The Victims and Survivors Service in Northern Ireland commissions a wide range of organisations to provide psychosocial and clinical interventions for people who have been affected by the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. Organisations such as Wave Trauma Care offer a specialist approach to supporting victims and survivors, and offer training to individuals and organisations in Trauma Informed Practice. Whilst the above is much needed and expertly delivered, the Stormont House Agreement (2014) recognises the needs of victims who do not live in Northern Ireland. 622 people from the Island of Britain were killed during the ‘Troubles’, and it is believed that thousands of people received physical or psychological injuries as a direct result of their experiences of a ‘Troubles-related incident’. In addition to this, according to a Northern Ireland Assembly report, Northern Ireland lost approximately 20,000 people from its population during the years correlating with the ‘Troubles’. So, we can assume that a large proportion of the Northern Irish diaspora living in England, Scotland or Wales are also in need of services – given that we know the associated injuries can be lifelong. A new service for victims and survivors in England, Scotland and Wales In 2003, The Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation was commissioned to produce a report which made recommendations for supporting survivors and victims of the ‘Troubles’ who live in England, Scotland and Wales. Since then,we have campaigned for services to be commissioned to meet these recommendations. In 2017, we were finally successful in our campaign and the Victims and Survivors Service in Northern Ireland commissioned two Health and Wellbeing Caseworkers to provide services on the island of Great Britain. We now have a full-time member of staff offering health and...

Blog: Sticks and stones can break your bones but…

Before you read this blog you need to make a decision. You need to decide whether you want to read an explicit statement made by...

Before you read this blog you need to make a decision. You need to decide whether you want to read an explicit statement made by a six-year-old boy. Because, as you will see, words can hurt and they do. A few weeks ago, a colleague from the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foundation was delivering one of our programmes. During the programme she spent time talking with young children, those at key stage one, starting out on their education, how people are always different from each other. She showed some material that demonstrated this, where people had built physical walls to divide different communities. And, she asked the children what they would do if they met somebody who is different to them – that is someone who could be considered as the other. The answer a six-year-old boy gave was - and here you need to decide whether to read on or not and whether you can deal with the next statement - “I would blow their hand off with a grenade.” Just pause for a moment. Just reflect. This was a six-year-old, not in some inner-city school as stereotypes may dictate, but in a leafy suburb in a well-to-do area The lesson moved on to look at why and how such of a view was being formed and this may not surprise you. Our world of modern technology, including gaming and social media, and access to the World Wide Web, has brought unprecedented information to many people, including young children. When questioned further, we found another major surprise.  That is the number of children who are watching television programmes that we would normally class as being after the watershed. The fact that six-year-olds are watching programs like BBC’s Bodyguard, one of the biggest TV experiences of the year, and experiencing prolonged and explicit violence, including terrorism, aspects of violent extremism and simulated sex involving fictional senior politicians, is something we all need to pause and think about.  With so much information available, the sheer number of words and, often words that cause harm, that are reaching children is phenomenal. The ability of young children to absorb such information and words, the process them all, and apply critical thinking to deal with such material, is being sorely tested.  The impact on their knowledge and wisdom is not fully quantified, but for some could it be the start of a path that may lead to radicalisation and even violent extremism.  I refer you to the solution our six-year-old gave.  Playful naivety or something that could lead to something far more sinister? We, at the Peace Foundation, believe that words matter, and over the past few weeks we have been working with survivors of terror and violent conflict to understand the impact words used by the media and those in public life, has on them, and also the impact the words are having on those that may use violence to harm others. It is a frightening and daunting picture. And we have...