Troubles trauma continues through generations

Trauma inflicted during the Troubles of Northern Ireland continues to be experienced by successive generations that now live in more peaceful times, research has found.

The grief of those who lost loved ones in the conflict is passed down through their families, according to a study published by the Wave Trauma Centre.

The report, entitled ‘Transgenerational trauma and dealing with the past in Northern Ireland’, cited research that identified high suicide rates among young men who were children and young people during the worst stages of the Troubles.

It also highlighted a sense of isolation still felt by many victims of the conflict.

The report, which was written by Damien McNally, whose father was murdered by loyalists in 1976, recorded the personal experiences of individuals who, as children, lost family members through violence.

The study highlighted a need for more acknowledgement of the impact wider factors in society could have on victims.

Mr McNally said: “There is an all-pervading culture of silence within wider society on the impact of trauma and grief as a result of the Troubles in Northern Ireland which has led to it being viewed as solely a medical problem for the families involved.

“In fact, a family’s experience of trauma is at least as much dependent on the environment in which they are living as anything else.

“The response of the police to them, for example, or the justice system, the media, or politicians are all crucial influences and unless these are recognised and factored in, then a sole focus on the individual family suffering from what is perceived to be a stand alone psychological disorder will inevitably lead to a poor outcome for them. This can’t be allowed to continue.”

The study said a balance needs to be struck between putting resources and emphasis into education about the consequences of trauma, injury, and bereavement, and investing in psychological interventions aimed at treating transgenerational trauma as a specific psychological phenomenon.

Mr McNally noted that his research was conducted before the recent Haass talks initiative failed to find agreement on a way of dealing with the legacy of the Troubles.

“It powerfully reinforces the need to see an inclusive and comprehensive way to deal with the past if the shadow of trauma and grief is not to be cast over yet more generations,” he said.

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