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New Ulster Research into Psychological Impact of the 'Troubles'

4 August 2011

New research into the psychological impact of the ‘Troubles’ by University of Ulster academics is to inform future Government policy.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among victims and survivors of traumatic events in Northern Ireland has been shown, through cross-national comparisons, to be among the highest in the world. In part, this may be explained by the tendency for the traumatic event suffered by individuals in Northern Ireland to be more serious. In other studies, PTSD was  closely associated with having one or more other mental health conditions. In addition, the detrimental effects of PTSD in terms of days where the person was unfit to fulfil her or his social obligations were high.

Staff from the Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Well-being at the University’s Magee campus, in association with staff from the Commission for Victims and Survivors, the Centre for Trauma and Transformation and the Research Department of the Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health have now designed a study to examine these relationships more closely, especially how they relate to the Northern Ireland conflict.

Findings and recommendations from this latest research project on mental health of victims and survivors will directly inform advice to Government as part of the ongoing development of the new Victims and Survivors Service due to become operational in April 2012.

Senior Psychology lecturer at Ulster, Dr Siobhan O’Neill said the research will help identify the best way to meet the psychological and physical needs of victims and survivors of the conflict. “It will draw on valuable data from the Northern Ireland Study of Health and Stress, a World Health Organisation supported study funded by the Research & Development Division of the NI Public Health Agency.

"This will provide significant new information about experiences of traumatic events and the level of mental health problems among members of the public who have been adversely affected by the Troubles.

"The research will also provide more information about their experiences of getting mental health-related services, including the impact of delays in receiving treatment."

Professor Bunting, Director of the University of Ulster’s Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Well-being, said “This collaboration with the Commission provides us with the opportunity to address questions relating to the psychological consequences of traumatic events in a way that can enhance our understanding of PTSD, whilst potentially reducing the burden of such events on both the individual and the community.”

Commissioner Patricia MacBride said: “This is a significant study which will directly input into the Commission's on-going Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA) for victims and survivors. The CNA Interim Phase 1 Report published by the Commission last October concluded that Health and Well-Being was the priority area in terms of meeting the psychological and physical needs of victims and survivors."

David Bolton of the Northern Ireland Centre for Trauma and Transformation who is working with the University team, noted: “The research provides a valuable opportunity to extend our knowledge of the needs of people who have suffered mental health problems as a result of the years of violence, and will support the development of much needed services for the community."

The research findings will be available in September 2011.