Children traumatised by homicide of loved ones 'need long-term therapy' 

Children traumatised by homicide of loved ones 'need long-term therapy' 

AdVIC says current government funding only allows it to offer 12 counselling sessions to children and adolescents affected by homicide of a parent or a sibling. Picture: iStock/PA

The Government needs to fund long term counselling for children left traumatised by the killing of a parent or sibling, a support group has said.

AdVIC, the advocacy group for families of victims of homicide, said it has requested meetings with both the Minister for Children and the Minister of State for Mental Health on the issue, but say the requests have gone unanswered.

The body said that, currently, the levels of government funding only allow it to offer 12 counselling sessions to children and adolescents free of charge.

In a statement, the group said: “AdVIC is concerned that the limited number of sessions is inappropriate and unethical due to the lack of support available through the health system thereafter.” 

'Long-term consequences' of inadequate intervention

It said inadequate short term therapeutic intervention risks causing long term consequences with children and adolescents potentially experiencing “low self-esteem, mood swings, substance abuse, flashbacks, panic attacks or relationship difficulties later in life”.

It said greater levels of funding would enable AdVIC to recruit additional professionally trained and qualified psychotherapists, saying they currently had three qualified child and adolescent counsellors.

Losing a loved one through violence is one the most traumatic things that anyone can experience and the impact is even more of a burden on young people, said AdVIC spokesperson Joan Deane.
Losing a loved one through violence is one the most traumatic things that anyone can experience and the impact is even more of a burden on young people, said AdVIC spokesperson Joan Deane.

It said that time-limited work with young people presenting with trauma and bereavement was “clinically challenging”, as bereavement and trauma associated with homicide required medium- to long term therapeutic support and, at times, “open-ended” support.

The statement said that referrals to HSE counselling were not appropriate, saying there were “extensive waiting lists”: 

AdVIC has requested meetings with the Minister for Children and Minister of State for Mental Health to discuss the issue and raise the need for increased funding, but the requests have gone unanswered to date.

The advocacy group reiterated its call to both ministers ahead of its biannual memorial service for victims of homicide which takes place tomorrow, Saturday September 25, 2021, at 3pm, when the service can be viewed online on AdVIC.ie

'Impact is even more severe on children'

Commenting, AdVIC spokesperson Joan Deane said: “Losing a loved one through violence is one the most traumatic things that anyone can experience and the impact is even more of a burden on young people who can be left haunted for the rest of their lives: 

We feel that it is completely inappropriate that children and adolescents can only avail of short-term counselling for extremely complex trauma, but our calls to address this seem to be falling on deaf ears. It just goes to show once again that families of homicide victims are the only people that really serve life sentences. The lack of suitable therapeutic intervention means that young people can be left with extremely serious long term effects due to untreated trauma that impacts their future. 

"Negative outcomes can include mental health issues, missing out of educational and career opportunities, and damaging future relationships. The current approach by Government is simply sticking a plaster on a wound and letting it fester.” 

In a statement, the Department of Children said it was contacted by AdVIC in late May and early June with a request to meet the Minister with regard to funding for particular posts. It said AdVIC indicated it had already consulted with Justice Minister McEntee and was requesting a meeting with the Minister for Children and also with the minister with responsibility for mental health.

It said some clarification was sought given that the main channel of funding for AdVIC is from the Department of Justice. But it said: 

Information has been sought from Tusla with regard to its funding support for AdVIC in particular and more generally with regard to counselling and therapeutic supports. This was to brief the Minister for the expected meeting. The Minister certainly has no difficulty with meeting AdVIC and it is regreted that a timely response did not issue to convey this message to AdVIC.

A statement from Minister of State for Mental Health, Mary Butler, said it was understood that AdVIC received funding from agencies under the departments of justice and children.

“The question of meetings in relation to increasing this organisation’s existing funding would be a matter for those Departments," it said. "Minister Butler will, in conjunction with the HSE, continue to work to improve all aspects of mental health services being developed by the Executive and its existing partnership agencies.” 

Contact advic.ie; 1800 852000; email info@advic.ie

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