Regional Trauma Network
What is Psychological Trauma?
Psychological trauma is a mental and emotional response to an event or an experience that is deeply distressing or disturbing. This could range from losing a loved one, being involved in an accident, or having an illness or injury, to extreme experiences that are severely damaging, such as rape or torture.
Everyone processes a traumatic event differently, and our individual reactions cover a wide spectrum of behaviours and responses. Often, shock and denial are typical reactions to a traumatic event. Over time, these emotional responses may fade, but a survivor may also experience reactions long-term. These might include, for example: flashbacks, unpredictable emotions, and feelings of isolation and hopelessness.
Psychologists have developed a detailed language for describing and diagnosing trauma and the different reactions that we may have to it. This helps therapists to develop tailored and effective methods for supporting recovery.
The Regional Trauma Network aims specifically to meet the needs of people who have clinically significant levels of psychological trauma, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD).
About the Regional Trauma Network
“We work collaboratively and in partnership with people in our society to improve access to the highest quality psychological trauma care”
The Good Friday/Belfast Agreement (1998) recognised the enduring physical and psychological impact of the Troubles on victims and survivors and undertook never to forget the needs of those who died or were injured and their families:
“The tragedies of the past have left a deep and profoundly regrettable legacy of suffering. We must never forget those who have died or been injured, and their families. But we can best honour them through a fresh start, in which we firmly dedicate ourselves to the achievement of reconciliation, tolerance, and mutual trust, and to the protection and vindication of the human rights of all”.
In 2014 The Stormont House Agreement made a commitment to comprehensively address the mental health impact of the Troubles through the establishment of a dedicated service:
“The Commission for Victims and Survivors’ recommendation for a comprehensive Mental Trauma Service will be implemented. This will operate within the NHS but will work closely with the Victims and Survivors Service (VSS), and other organisations and groups who work directly with victims and survivors”.
Discussions began regarding a trauma-focused and coordinated service network led by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Executive Office (TEO). The intent was to design a regional service drawing on existing resources and expertise from the statutory and the community and voluntary sector.
The Regional Trauma Network aims to become a world-leading trauma network. This will only be possible if we learn from and collaborate with key stakeholders and service delivery partners. An exciting and key element of the design, development, and implementation of the Network is strengthening and fostering meaningful partnerships and collaboration with key stakeholders, service-users, carers, and service providers and in shared learning about the delivery of accessible, acceptable, and effective trauma care.
Within this broader context, the aims of the RTN are to:
- Comprehensively address the legacy of the Troubles/Conflict and address unmet mental health needs
- Improve individual, family, and community experience of mental health trauma care
- Increase the overall capacity of mental health services in the region
- Improve the psychological and social outcomes for service-users, their families, and communities who have been traumatised because of the Troubles/Conflict
- Improve governance and accountability of trauma care provided by the HSC, and the voluntary and community sector.
The Victims and Survivors Service (VSS) has a specific focus on improving the health and wellbeing of victims and survivors and building capacity within the sector to deliver high quality services. The community and voluntary sector element of the RTN for victims and survivors was established in April 2017.
The Health and Social Care (HSC) element of the Regional Trauma Network (RTN) is an enhancement of the existing provision of mental health services. It aims to improve access to the highest quality trauma services for the population of Northern Ireland by the creation of a specialised local trauma team in each Health and Social Care Trust (HSCT).
Practice within the HSC trauma teams is guided by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence Guidelines (NICE CG 26) and other authoritative international guidelines on the effective management of trauma provided by the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS), and the United Kingdom Psychological Trauma Society Guidelines (UKPTS).
NICE CG 26 recommends a ‘stepped care’ approach which is underpinned by a social model of recovery. The Stepped Care Model allows for a range of interventions, meeting the spectrum of need across the community and focuses on the recovery of the service-user. It considers the clinical evidence that for people to recover, they may often need a combination of evidence-based social, family, psychological, and psychiatric interventions: in short, a collaborative partnership across community, voluntary, and statutory services. These teams deliver nationally and internationally recommended evidence-based trauma treatments, and will develop research, training, and education strategies that will inform future national and international practice in relation to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other trauma related conditions.
All interventions are monitored, evaluated and supported by clinical research which, as part of the world-leading agenda for the service, will refine and inform future models of psychological trauma care.
Therapies provided are either:
- Based on and informed by appropriate clinical evidence as agreed by Department of Health (DOH) e.g. high intensity Trauma-Focussed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT), Prolonged Exposure Therapy (PE), Family/Couples Therapy, and Eye-Movement Desensitisation and Reprogramming Therapy (EMDR).
- Part of an emerging evidence base, which in the opinion of DOH is appropriate for use e.g. in more complex cases, integrative, combinatory, and phased approaches incorporating evidence-based practice and multiple intervention elements (e.g. stabilisation, psychiatric care) may be required.
Covid-19 Pandemic Support and Webinar Series
Throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic the team has provided support to their local psychology services.
The Regional Trauma Network in partnership with the Clinical Education Centre has launched a series of webinars related to psychological trauma and COVID-19.
The webinar series is aimed at Health and Social Care Practitioners and the wider workforce.
The following link gives staff access to the webinar recordings and any supporting materials. You will be asked to provide your email address to access the webinars.
Your email address will help us monitor access to the webinar sessions and inform communications in the future. For further information visit: CEC Privacy Notice.