The Troubles are directly associated with nearly half the cases of severe mental health issues in Northern Ireland, research has revealed.
Around 213,000 adults were badly affected by the trauma of 30 years of conflict, according to the study for the Commission for Victims and Survivors.
It found that while almost 30 per cent of the population suffered mental health problems, nearly half directly related to the violence. The legacy of the conflict was also connected to suicidal behaviour – which was likely to be transmitted to future generations, it said.
John Beggs, secretary to the commission, said: “Commitments contained in the Stormont House Agreement relating to the establishment of a comprehensive mental trauma service and access to high-quality services demonstrate the leadership required from our politicians in prioritising the mental health needs of victims and survivors.”
The research on the trans-generational impact of the Troubles was conducted by Ulster University on behalf of the commission.
It aimed to understand the impact of the violence on Northern Ireland society today as well as to examine the fallout for mental health, suicide and early years development.
The report made 12 recommendations on policy, services and research to meet the needs of those affected for future support.
The Stormont House Agreement between the five main political parties and the British and Irish governments envisaged a mental trauma service to be established within the NHS but working closely with the Victims and Survivors Service.
The findings of the commission’s report were published at the Towards A Better Future conference attended by senior government representatives and 200 delegates representing victims’ and survivors’ groups, youth organisations, academics and service providers.
Ulster University’s professor of mental health sciences, Siobhan O’Neill, said most suffered minimal long-term mental ill health issues as a result of the Troubles.
“But a significant number of individuals who directly experienced decades of violence and social deprivation have gone on to develop serious mental health and substance disorders.
“It is also a factor in explaining why Northern Ireland has the highest levels of suicide in the United Kingdom.
“Young people, in particular young men, have paid an especially heavy price throughout the Troubles in terms of lost lives and high levels of exposure to traumatic events.
“This research shows how in post-Agreement Northern Ireland children continue to remain a group impacted by conflict-legacy issues, directly through exposure to ongoing violence and paramilitarism, and indirectly through the effects of conflict-related mental disorders on their parents.”