Manchester Arena bomb survivor told to view it as ‘positive’ experience by medic

A survivor of the Manchester Arena bombing has said they were told to view the attack as a positive experience, according to a report. Twenty-two people were murdered and hundreds injured when suicide bomber Salman Abedi detonated a device in the foyer of the venue at the end of an Ariana Grande concert on May 22 2017.

The Bee The Difference report, launched on the sixth anniversary of the attack, says nearly a third of young survivors of the bombing have received no professional support.

While some of the professional help offered by teachers, counsellors and GPs was invaluable to survivors, some of it introduced more trauma, according to the research.

One survivor told the report’s researchers: “The tutor told me I should take the attack as a positive experience – that this ‘hardship’ would make me a stronger person.

“He said not many young people experience hardships nowadays. This felt totally insensitive so I didn’t return.”

The report says three-quarters (75 percent) of children and young people affected by the 2017 terror outrage were psychologically injured by what happened to them.

But 29 percent have never received any professional support in the six years since with four in 10 of these saying it was never even offered to them.

The Bee The Difference report is a research project designed by and for young survivors of the attack in collaboration with UK disaster response charity the National Emergencies Trust and researchers at Lancaster University.

More than 200 young survivors took part in the research for the report, all under 18 at the time of the attack, and some of whom were physically injured in the bombing.

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The report reveals while 93 percent of young survivors felt they needed support in the aftermath of the attack, 70 percent received no professional help within the first month and 31 percent received no professional help within the first year.

Some young people told researchers they felt their experiences were not validated by adults in positions of care and that their feelings and opinions were dismissed on account of their age.

The report makes a number of proposals for individuals and institutions to improve support for young survivors of terror.

The British Government is expected to finalise the draft of a “Survivor’s Charter” in the next few weeks which would guarantee key rights for survivors of terror attacks. It is expected to include a guaranteed timeline for mental health support.

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Dr Cath Hill, Lead Researcher at Lancaster University, said the findings show the “simple” act of validating young people’s views can make a huge difference to their wellbeing and is something all adults in positions of care could be more mindful of should the worst happen again.

Mhairi Sharp, Head of the National Emergencies Trust, said: “There has been a glaring gap in knowledge about how UK disasters affect children and young people.

“Six years after the attack almost one in four (22 percent) young Manchester survivors continue to receive psychological support today, according to the findings.”

The charity’s royal patron, Prince William, the Prince of Wales, said: “This report makes clear young people who have experienced the trauma of terrorism have needs unique to their age.”

William added: “These are minds that need the space to have their voices heard and feelings acknowledged.

“We must listen to their stories now, in order to learn for the future. I look forward to seeing the change that it creates.”

Suicide bomber Abedi was born in Manchester in 1994 to parents of Libyan birth.

His parents emigrated from Libya to London before moving to the Fallowfield area of south Manchester.

Abedi’s brother Hashem was found guilty in 2020 of murder, for encouraging and helping Salman to blow himself up.

Hashem had denied any involvement, but offered no evidence during his trial. A jury concluded he was as guilty as his brother of murder.

He was sentenced to life that same year and told he would serve at least 55 years behind bars.

In March, the head of Britain’s security services, Ken McCallum, said he was profoundly sorry his spies had missed a “significant” opportunity to prevent the suicide bombing.

It came as John Saunders, the chairman of a public inquiry into the tragedy, said he could not say for certain the bombing could have been stopped, but there was a “realistic possibility” actionable intelligence could have been obtained which might have led to action preventing the attack.

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