Troubles' health effects 'ignored'
Health problems still endured by those who experienced traumatic events during the Troubles have been laid bare in new academic research.
The University of Ulster's (UU) Troubled Consequences report has outlined the mental and physical issues that still affect people who were touched by the conflict.
Previous research has found that Northern Ireland has one of the world's highest recorded rates of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and that four out of 10 people in the region had experienced a traumatic event related to the Troubles.
The new study by experts from UU's Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Well-Being found that those who have experienced trauma are more likely to develop mental and physical conditions. As well as psychological disorders, trauma victims can develop arthritis, musculoskeletal pain, asthma and stomach ulcers, the report said.
The research was conducted by Professor Brendan Bunting, Dr Siobhan O'Neill and Dr Finola Ferry from the Bamford Centre, which is based at UU's Magee campus. It was launched by the Commission for Victims and Survivors (CVSNI) at a seminar for policymakers in Belfast. The event at Malone House was hosted jointly by the commissioner in partnership with the University of Ulster and the Institute for Conflict Related Trauma.
The research, undertaken on behalf of the commission, was used to inform its recent Comprehensive Needs Assessment report on the victims' sector.
Professor Bunting said the health consequences of the conflict in Northern Ireland were not well understood until the study was undertaken. He said: "It is clear from the findings that the violence linked to the Troubles has been a major source of suffering for the NI population - stress that has endured over the 35 or more years of conflict. The health consequences of the conflict were all too often minimised and ignored."
"The psychological consequences of trauma have been well documented in literature over the centuries. This report clearly shows that for many individuals in Northern Ireland this relationship between traumatic events and their psychological consequences has been, and continues to be, a real lived experience for all too many. For many of these individuals, this is a hidden cost that has not gone away."
Dr O'Neill said it was important those charged with shaping policy had access to relevant research to ensure they were able to make informed decisions. She said: "Our research was heavily cited in CVSNI's comprehensive needs assessment and it is important to ensure that the delivery of services is appropriate and will meet their needs."
Dr Ferry said it was striking that Northern Ireland had such high levels of PTSD, even compared to other areas of conflict. She said: "The clear message is that the need is significant and that there need to be major advances in evidence-based services for trauma sufferers."