Troubles and conflict trauma linked to suicide

Army Technical Officers pictured in Derry. DER1214SL200
Army Technical Officers pictured in Derry. DER1214SL200

The first direct link between suicidal behaviour and conflict-related trauma in Northern Ireland has been established by University of Ulster (UU) research led by a team at the Magee Campus.

Those affected may also be more likely to take their own lives at the first attempt, Professor Siobhan O’Neill said.

She said: “This new research is hugely significant because it demonstrates a new link between conflict and thinking about suicide.

“These UU findings are important and valuable as they can now help to shape and enhance the support available to vulnerable people, ensure healthcare providers are aware of new risk patterns, can recognise behaviour patterns and identify those at highest risk.”

Trauma inflicted during the Troubles continues to be experienced by successive generations that now live in more peaceful times, separate research published by the WAVE Trauma Centre has highlighted.

Professor O’Neill said: “This is the first time evidence clearly demonstrating a trend of suicidal behaviour in people who have suffered, or witnessed, a traumatic, conflict-related event has been found.

“The research also identifies lower levels of suicide attempts in this group, suggesting more worryingly that this group may be more likely to actually take their own life on the first attempt.”

According to WAVE, the largest victims’ group helping those injured or bereaved by the 30-year conflict, estimates of numbers injured range from 8,383 to 100,000.

A 2012 report for the charity noted deteriorating health and increased dependency due to the combination of ageing and limitations caused by injuries, some severe and traumatic and having long-term effects on all aspects of their lives.

They included blast and gunshot damage, loss of limbs, and loss of hearing and vision. Some suffered embedded shrapnel injuries, which continue to cause pain and distress.