Specialist services have been put in place in West Cumbria to provide support to people affected by the massacre of 12 people by Derrick Bird on Wednesday afternoon.
Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has set up drop-in advice sessions at the psychology department at West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven to offer people support. These are being continued over the weekend at the accident and emergency department, while the trust has set up a special phone line (01946 523666) that is being staffed 24 hours a day.
Child and adolescent mental health services are providing extra support to young people while mobile libraries are being used to provide information and for counsellors to provide sessions in more rural locations.
Helen Smith, locality director for West Cumbria in the county’s children’s services, said an educational psychologist and a counsellor had each been sent to three schools identified as most directly affected by the shooting.
She added: “In addition the school improvement officer linked to each of the schools in the surrounding area will be contacting those head teachers and identifying any support needs.
“For those young people identified as needing ongoing emotional support we will be linking in with our child and adolescent mental health service colleagues.”
Meanwhile, family doctors are being told to keep an eye out for extreme signs of emotional distress among people affected by the killings, the floods over the winter and last week’s bus crash, in which two schoolchildren were killed.
At the moment GPs are seeing low levels of distress but expect that to change in the coming days and weeks as people come to terms with the trauma.
But they are urging those affected to talk through their problems with family or friends or to seek professional help.
Whitehaven GP Dr David Rogers said: “I’ve personally seen people affected. There’s a lot of strong emotion in the area and it’s a small and tight-knit community. Lots of people have been affected by this in that they were witnesses or knew people injured or killed.”
Dr Rogers, who is also a GP lead for practice-based commissioning in the county, said: “People are still in a state of shock and feel extreme sadness and disbelief that it has happened here.”
He said that most people in the area had strong support networks so it was difficult to assess how many people would require extra interventions.
GP practices in Whitehaven, Egremont and Seascale have drop-in facilities providing information.