The bulk of an iceberg of undiagnosed Troubles-related post-traumatic stress is contributing to high levels of anxiety and depression in Derry, according to support workers for people affected by the conflict.
Johann Coyle and Velma Irvine, of the WAVE Trauma Centre in Bishop Street, provide counselling and complementary therapies to Troubles victims.
They told the Journal the demand for WAVE, which has been providing outreach in Derry for the past 25 years and has had a local office since 2002, is as great as ever.
“Last week alone we had eight new referrals coming through the door,” said Ms Coyle, who is the local project manager
“The demand’s got quite high here. I have noted since January of this year, there’s a very high demand in this office.
“In 2015, overall, the five offices, we had 564 new referrals. That’s along with the existing clients we already have.
“Here, particularly in this office, there would be a lot of legacy. Obviously Bloody Sunday was a big thing here. You have Creggan estate and the Bogside, then you have the Waterside, you’re taking in both sides of the community.”
Ms Coyle believes many people in the city are suffering from undiagnosed PTSD.
“A lot of it went undiagnosed,” she said.
Ms Irvine agreed: “Even like delayed PTSD as well...what you do is try to build up resilience and try to lead a normal life where you are working, you keep yourself busy and obviously then when you’ve got older people retiring and they’ve more time, it just comes in on them. You’ld have a lot of that.”
Ms Coyle said long-suppressed trauma and anxiety, can often be triggered by seemingly minor crises.
“A lot of people you find, whenever the Troubles happened here it was normal.
“It was a normality for everybody so you just got up and got on with it and you met your partner and you had children and you went to your job every day and when something is taken out of that then that’s when everything falls in on them and they start to think, actually, I’m not OK, I’m not well, and why do I keep thinking about this all of a sudden whenever I thought I’d put it to the back of the burner but something small can trigger it off even like watching something on TV.”
Both staff agree that the comparatively high levels of sickness claims in Derry are often the result of mental health issues stemming from the Troubles.
“We have a welfare officer who works here two days a week and he’s inundated, inundated,” said Ms Coyle.
Ms Irvine concurred: “One in three in Derry suffering from mental disorder is Troubles related...working in this office you can see it.”
Ms Coyle said: “People who have gone out and worked and have hard their wage and had their daily living and just all of a sudden...and they don’t know where to go to or what to do because they’ve never claimed a benefit before, and didn’t know what to do. They’re living on the breadline.”
WAVE is holding a fundraising ‘Take Me Out” dating event hosted by Dale T at The Maldron Hotel on October 8.
For more details about the work the group does or if you feel you would benefit from WAVE’s services contact the office at 23a Bishop Street, Derry, BT48 9PR, by telephoning 02871266655.
Or visit the WAVE website at www.wavetraumacentre.org.uk