Those affected by terrorism need better mental health support

New research argues that a government scheme to support the mental health of people affected by terrorist attacks needs to provide a better system of immediate psychological help.

The Care Policy and Evaluation Centre at LSE explored the effectiveness of the Department of Health and Social Care’s Screen and Treat Programme, which was set up to identify and refer people to mental health services following terrorist attacks in Tunisia, Paris and Brussels in 2015 and 2016.

Most of the 77 people who responded to the study questionnaire said that the attacks had a major impact on their lives, with the majority reporting anxiety, depression, difficulty going out or travelling, sleep problems, panic attacks, flashbacks and hyper-vigilance. A third of respondents had reduced their working hours and a similar proportion had taken sick leave.

Additionally, two-thirds of those interviewed sought help from their GP before being contacted by the Screen and Treat programme. Almost all thought that their GP had not been helpful in dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or referring to appropriate care. Interviewees reported that they used help offered by organisations external to NHS, with mixed experiences.

Concerning the Screen and Treat programme, the researchers recommend that there is a system to provide immediate psychological help after a terrorist attack. Although people who accessed support through the programme were generally satisfied with their treatment, most people thought it should have been available sooner.

Dr Eva Cyhlarova, who carried out the research, said that: “Terrorist attacks have wide-reaching consequences. Mental health needs are common for those affected. We wanted to see how effective the Screen and Treat programme was in identifying and referring people to mental health services and to understand how the agencies involved worked together. Our evaluation showed that the programme worked well in many ways, but it was available too late."


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