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NHS hopes virtual reality will help Grenfell victims mental trauma

Joe Roberts for Metro.co.uk

NHS hopes virtual reality will help Grenfell victims' mental trauma

The outreach workers hope the Grenfell community will open up after using the VR (Picture: PA)

The Grenfell community is being offered virtual reality to help them open up about how theyre coping a year after the tragedy.

Outreach workers have been standing with VR headsets along Portobello Road, in west London, to try and spark conversations with those less likely to seek help.

Offering the chance to ride a roller coaster, teams from the Central and North West London NHS trust (CNWL) claim the adrenaline is acting as an icebreaker for frank conversations with north Kensington residents.

More often than not, those who stop by have a direct connection with the tower, Grenfell Health and Wellbeing Service manager Ross OBrien said.

Mr OBrien said he believed it was the first time the NHS has used VR in this way, saying it has allowed teams to screen far more people than we would via the traditional methods.

Rosie Collins, founder of FRED company, wearing one of her Virtual reality headsets, as they are also being used to reach traumatised families struggling a year after the Grenfell Tower fire in what is believed to be a UK first. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday June 12, 2018. Offering the chance to ride a roller coaster or wing-walk, teams say the adrenaline from the experience is acting as an icebreaker to help them initiate frank discussions about how north Kensington residents are coping a year on from the fire. See PA story MEMORIAL Grenfell VirtualReality. Photo credit should read: Jemma Crew/PA Wire

Rosie Collins, founder of founder of tech and behavioural science company Fred, tests out the VR (Picture: PA)

Rosie Collins, founder of FRED company, wearing one of her Virtual reality headsets, as they are also being used to reach traumatised families struggling a year after the Grenfell Tower fire in what is believed to be a UK first. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday June 12, 2018. Offering the chance to ride a roller coaster or wing-walk, teams say the adrenaline from the experience is acting as an icebreaker to help them initiate frank discussions about how north Kensington residents are coping a year on from the fire. See PA story MEMORIAL Grenfell VirtualReality. Photo credit should read: Jemma Crew/PA Wire

The NHS team claims one outreach session led to more than 30 referrals (Picture: PA)

He said: Now weve built up that relationship, where instead of being scary people in white coats, psychologists, psychotherapists, were also just the people who enable the VR, and our conversations with the survivors and the bereaved are on a very familiar level.

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Its been a brilliant enabler to demystify and de-stigmatise the world of mental health.

At a recent outreach session, the team met a local Muslim who had become hyper-vigilant over safety since the fire.

They also chatted with a young man whose relative was struggling after watching the tower burn, an older person whose friends son had died, and an artist whose studio looks on to the block.

Mr OBrien said it led to more than 30 referrals, literally by virtue of the fact that they are walking past and we are going, “do you want to go on a roller coaster?”

Undated handout photo issued by Central and North West London (CNWL) NHS trust of NHS staff on Portobello Road trying out Virtual reality headsets, as they are being used to reach traumatised families struggling a year after the Grenfell Tower fire in what is believed to be a UK first. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Tuesday June 12, 2018. Offering the chance to ride a roller coaster or wing-walk, teams say the adrenaline from the experience is acting as an icebreaker to help them initiate frank discussions about how north Kensington residents are coping a year on from the fire. See PA story MEMORIAL Grenfell VirtualReality. Photo credit should read: CNWL/PA Wire NOTE TO EDITORS: This handout photo may only be used in for editorial reporting purposes for the contemporaneous illustration of events, things or the people in the image or facts mentioned in the caption. Reuse of the picture may require further permission from the copyright holder.

The VR headsets went down a treat with people along Portobello Road (Picture: PA)

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Ray Tang/REX/Shutterstock (9707889u) Message of support ahead of the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire which killed 72 people. Banner unveiled on Grenfell Tower, London, UK - 08 Jun 2018

The Grenfell community is demanding justice for the 72 people that died (Picture: REX/Shutterstock)

With trauma we see a lot more cases of avoidance in the community, he continued.

So people wont come forward even when theyre not sleeping, having flashbacks, showing signs of PTSD, they dont generally deal with it.

CNWL has been working with Rosie Collins, founder of tech and behavioural science company Fred, on the pilot which started earlier this year.

They are planning to create a series of mindfulness films in VR featuring local celebrities, and are also working with Grenfell United on ways it could help transform the tower site.

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