Free emergency psychological support will be made available to victims of mass trauma events through an initiative spearheaded by a Manchester Arena terror attack survivor.

In partnership with a team of professional, qualified 'Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing' therapists, Sean Gardner launched the Trauma Response Network (TRN) on the first anniversary of the explosion this week.

Sean had just reached the foyer of Manchester Arena on 22nd May 2017 to collect his youngest daughter and her friend who, like thousands of others, had attended the Ariana Grande concert. His eldest daughter was waiting in his car in the Arena car park. At the point the bomb detonated, Sean was separated from his daughters, and it was close to two hours before they were reunited. In the centre of the devastation, Sean came to the aid of a seriously injured woman. Despite his best efforts, the woman sadly died before the emergency services arrived.


Thankfully neither Sean nor his daughters had been physically injured, although his eldest had suffered significant trauma. The event also seriously impacted Sean’s own mental health. Not suicidal nor at immediate risk, he was not offered immediate treatment. It was only after seeking independent advice, was he diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and referred for private Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy.

Sean explained: “I discovered I was not alone. Reports from both the Manchester and London attacks, and the Grenfell Tower disaster show many people are unable to access immediate mental health support, something that made a tangible difference to the pace of my own recovery.”

With no emergency first aid for mental health in the same way that ambulances and hospitals are available to support those with physical injuries, Sean has launched, together with fellow trustees from a therapeutic background, Trauma Response Network (TRN) to deliver mental health services and therapy at a time when emergency resources are stretched.

TRN is made up of a team of professional, qualified therapists specialising in EMDR who have committed their time for free to help support people affected by mass trauma. Within hours of an event those affected can self-refer online, benefiting from a free online psychoeducation session.

Using the latest cloud technology, TRN delivers a live session where therapists and clients can engage in real time using voice, a video cam, a chat box and an interactive whiteboard. It is the same system Sean developed for his online teaching business which is used in hundreds of schools across the country.

Susan Darker Smith, an EMDR therapist specialising in the field of trauma, who treated Sean Gardner has been closely involved in the formation of TRN. She says: “The idea of using technology to help people is exciting and innovative. There have been trials of online psychotherapy but nothing on this scale, where those affected by an incident of mass trauma are able to access online support and speak to an accredited EMDR clinician within 24 hours.”

The online session is followed up by face-to-face therapy made up from up to five sessions, again delivered for free by qualified EMDR therapists. These are intended to bridge the gap where early intervention is needed before the existing service provision can kick in.