23 May 2019

How Virtual Reality is Helping Those Affected by the Manchester Arena Attack

Posted By Laura Thompson
immersive technology interactive technology virtual reality VR VR headset VR therapy
We’ve long known the powerful educational benefits of VR (Virtual Reality), an expertise and understanding which has not only enabled us to create entertaining immersive experiences for the Parliamentary Education Centre, but has accredited us as one of this year’s Nesta Amplified grantee recipients for our collaboration with Doncaster Children’s Services, a project in which we will be creating a VR tool to help challenge attitudes, change behaviour and raise awareness of the dangers of knife crime and child criminal exploitation by organised crime gangs.

VR, which essentially enables users to be immersed into a virtual world, engaging four of the five senses, including vision, hearing, touch and possibly even smell, has long been perceived as a mainstay of the gaming industry, but is now thanks to pioneering projects such as our own, being recognised across all sectors, in particular those of health and education. Indeed we were very interested to read an article recently about how it is being used to support victims of the Manchester Arena Attack in 2017.

The Manchester Resilience Hub, an enhanced NHS mental health service set up after the horrific Manchester Arena Attack of 22 May 2017 to support to those affected, including concert goers, children, families and emergency workers, has been able to demonstrate that VR can actively support those affected by traumatic events.

As part of the Hub’s activity, it has facilitated return visits to the Manchester Arena for a number of those who have been affected as part of their therapy. Additionally it has also offered some clients, who are in receipt of trauma-focused therapy, the option to return to the Arena via a VR headset which has enabled the wearer to view a 360’ degree video of the location.

This innovative technology was created by Salford University and has been found to be incredibly beneficial. Professor David Roberts, University of Salford said: “Our technology is now enabling people to experience the Manchester Arena in a safe and controlled way.”

The Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust which runs The Manchester Resilience Hub also noted that:

Through the use of VR exposure therapy, people were able to controllably confront what they found difficult – accessing the 360 degree videos of the Manchester Arena initially by hand and then as they gained confidence, through an immersive headset.

This technology introduces an extra and important step in exposure therapy, allowing clients to reduce their anxiety by facing their fears in a graduated way in the presence of their therapist. Lab based experiments showed that people’s brains relearn how to inhibit fear after three sessions using VR technology.

Our heartfelt congratulations to the team behind this remarkable project.