A mental health and wellbeing workshop led by top psychotherapist Derek O’Neill will bring together many of the disparate people affected by the horrific events of June 14 and attempt to help the community take the first steps on the long road to mental recovery.
Derek will host the workshop in the Harrow Club, Kensington, and is hoping that the techniques he has been employing in a long career working with people from many different walks of life will help a community still reeling two months after the fire, which resulted in more than 80 deaths and left 158 families homeless.
“I want to help those affected move forward and achieve stuff again,” he says. “I want to help them find a way to try to get past the anger and the blame.
“Of course I don’t know truly how it must feel to go through something so horrific as that – but I do know if those people don’t get some help soon they’ll never recover. And I can do that by sharing the little bit of wisdom I’ve got.”
The initiative is the brainchild of Joy Desmond, wife of Daily Express proprietor Richard Desmond, and TV and radio presenter Lizzie Cundy.
It was the latter who called local community activist Michael Defoe, director of the Harrow Club, which has been one of the foremost centres for help and donations since the tragedy.
He explains that, for too many of the people affected by the fire, the emotional and psychological impact of that night has been too often underestimated – or even overlooked.
“There’s been loads of donations and money given by the public which is great of course,” he explains.
“But that’s not been addressing the other problems people are having, which is the trauma of what happened. There’s a lot of mental anguish, a lot of depression.
“People can’t process what’s happened. And all the donations in the world can’t help with that side of things. A lot of people are suffering in silence and we wanted to work out a way to help address that.
“A friend of Derek got in touch with us and basically said he’s a top psychotherapist and he wants to get involved and what did we think the best way of going about it was? So we checked him out and we thought this guy could really help the people here.”
He adds: “Derek’s offer is something unique – as an organisation we want to do something a little bit out of the box to see if we can help people in a different way. And the opportunity for people to see someone like Derek could…