After Shoreham airshow – NHS offers support for coping with post-traumatic stress disorder

Witnesses of the Shoreham airshow disaster are being urged to consider talking therapy if they are still struggling to come to terms with the psychological effects of the incident. 

Nearly two months on from the tragic event, Sussex Police has written to witnesses who were most likely to have been affected by the disaster, which saw a Hawker Hunter jet crash onto the A27 at Shoreham.

The letter includes a copy of a leaflet produced by local NHS services in Sussex and Brighton & Hove which outlines some of the normal reactions that people may experience in the aftermath of such an event and suggests ways of dealing with these feelings. 

The advice from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) experts is that whilst most people’s feelings will resolve themselves naturally over time, anyone still experiencing strong reactions eight weeks after the event may benefit from talking therapy to help come to terms with what happened and should seek support. Feelings experienced by people may include distress, anxiety, sleeping difficulties or difficulties freeing themselves from the memories of what happened.

In response, local NHS services have come together to offer free and confidential telephone helplines to help people make sense of their reactions and to consider their options. The service is available for all age groups and would like to hear from anyone who is experiencing emotional distress following the incident and not just the witnesses who received a letter from Sussex Police. 

Whilst people can sometimes feel uncomfortable about asking for help, psychological talking therapies are proven to be of real help in enabling people to move forward in their lives following traumatic events.  

Nick from Bexhill has used talking therapies to help him recover from PTSD. Nick said: “I suffered from PTSD and the talking therapies available through the helpline allowed me to get my life back on track. I knew that I was suffering but I hadn’t realised it was PTSD; I just knew that there were parts of my life that I didn’t feel in control of. 

“I would encourage people to think about and recognise any potential symptoms - for me it was loss of memory, anxiety, confusion and tiredness. It came to a point where I couldn’t carry on with work or managing my daily life so I sought help from my GP, which led me to the talking therapies service at Health in Mind in East Sussex. The talking therapies it provided helped me to put things into perspective and understand and come to terms with the trauma I’d suffered. I couldn’t have done that myself, I needed professional support. 

“I always thought that I was strong enough to cope with anything but my experience taught me that it’s better to get help than to try and deal with it myself, and I’d urge everyone to think that way. It’s not a weakness to get help - you wouldn’t think twice if it was a broken ankle and you need to think about your mental health as you would any other illness.” 

  • If you live in West Sussex please ring: 01903 703542
  • If you live in Brighton & Hove please ring: 0300 00 20 060
  • If you live in East Sussex please ring: 0300 00 30 130

The above service is available from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm.

The service is not offered as an emergency service and if your need is urgent please contact your doctor.