'We need proper psychological support to help us deal with this'
Written by Jessica Bomford, March 4, 2020
Martin was 19 when he was told that blood products to treat his severe haemophilia had infected him with hepatitis C.
He was just about to get married, had a job he enjoyed and had a “happy go lucky” outlook on life.
But hepatitis C was to rob Martin of his marriage, his job and his home. It also left him with severe mental health problems, resulting in two attempts at suicide.
When the Infected Blood Inquiry opened last year, Martin started some specialist counselling, but also found that the inquiry was reopening painful psychological wounds.
Martin, from County Down, said: “I feel a sense of dread and fear which is a direct consequence of us having to re-examine stuff that we thought was put to bed.
“You bury this stuff deep and then suddenly it all comes back up again at the inquiry and you’re retraumatised. There’s nobody addressing this.
“I’m terrified. I’ve never ever been terrified in my life and I’ve been through a hell of a lot. This dread that’s in me now is because of opening this box. I have to deal with it, I have to get through the inquiry and then I can close it again at the end and get on with what life I have left.”
You bury this stuff deep and then suddenly it all comes back up again at the inquiry and you’re retraumatised
Martin is speaking out as part of The Haemophilia Society’s campaign for long-term specialist psychological support for those affected by the Infected Blood Inquiry.
The help he has received from his specialist counsellor has made a big difference to his life. He said: “Someone is there to listen. She helps me put what’s gone on into perspective. I look forward to my appointment – it makes me feel like I’ve got a venting process. It is very unsafe for us at the moment, we’re all vulnerable people, badly hurt. We need this support.”
Although Martin now gets psychological support, his attempts to get help for his teenage daughter who has been upset by the evidence which has come out of the inquiry, have failed.
Martin said: “She is sad, she’s down, she’s worried about her dad. I want to unburden her, but as it’s all public you can’t. It is important that family members are also given psychological support because they go through so much too.”
The strain of waiting for the outcome of the Infected Blood Inquiry is taking its toll, Martin believes.
He said: “I’ve never seen so many strong people fall to bits in my life. I find it difficult to get through to people how hard it is. We need a proper psychological support service across the UK to help us deal with this.”
Find out more about The Haemophilia Society’s campaign for long-term psychological support for those infected and affected by contaminated blood and blood products here.