Project 5

Managerial practices to ensure the wellbeing of humanitarian volunteers in post-conflict situations

Background: Volunteers in humanitarian crises often encounter the same losses and grief as individuals to whom they are providing aid, with 30% of aid workers reporting symptoms of PTSD. The field of humanitarian work psychology has highlighted the importance of organisational factors in the response to psychotrauma. Despite large investments in psychosocial support for victims, little attention is given to protecting the mental health of humanitarian response staff and volunteers.

Objective: To investigate the mechanisms by which existing International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) National Societies organisational factors (i.e. supervision, training) impact on the psychological wellbeing of humanitarian volunteers in post-conflict settings.

Methods: The fellow will conduct a realist review of psychosocial interventions for aid workers in post-conflict settings and conduct a multi-site case study realist evaluation of psychosocial interventions for humanitarian volunteers.

Secondment: The fellow will register in Trinity College Dublin from January 2017-March 2018, and conduct their non-academic placement in the IFRC Reference Centre for Psychosocial Support, hosted by Danish Red Cross, from April 2018-January 2020. The PhD degree will be awarded from Trinity College Dublin.

Innovation: Findings from Research Project 5 will be used to increase the utilisation of mental health and psychosocial support structures within the IFRC National Societies and to develop better policies and guidelines for Good Practice for volunteer care in emergency responses (i.e. ANTARES Guidelines).

Deliverables: (5.1) Realist review: Mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of volunteers in post-conflict situations (5.2) Middle Range Theory: IFRC managerial practices and their impact on humanitarian volunteers’ psychological responses to traumatic exposure.

Apply for Project 5 here


Project 6

PSNI trauma risk management strategy evaluation study

Background: Police officers working with victims of crime are vulnerable to vicarious traumatisation. While police forces regularly offer treatment following exposure to trauma (de-briefing), it is unknown whether these interventions are effective in the prevention of vicarious traumatization.

Objective: To conduct an evaluation of risk management strategies developed and employed by the police service to minimise the risk of traumatisation among officers exposed to traumatic incidents.

Methods: A natural experimental design will be employed, comparing officers who present for de-briefing and those who do not, and comparing those exposed to one traumatic event versus multiple traumatic exposures. These comparisons will be made at 3, 6, and 12 months.

Secondments: The fellow will register in the University of Southern Denmark from January 2017-March 2018, receive additional training in Ulster University from April 2018-July 2018, and conduct their non-academic placement in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) from August 2018-January 2020. The PhD degree will be awarded from the University of Southern Denmark. Please note that the candidate will have to undergo security vetting prior to their secondment in the PSNI. 

Innovation: Findings from Research Project 6 will be used to improve mental health services that strategically target officers’ post-critical incident needs. This will contribute to what is currently a controversial subject, with specific value for emergency service personnel, and lead to more informed deployment decisions.

Deliverables: (5.3) Assessment of the efficacy of post-incident debriefing in reducing secondary traumatisation of police officers (5.4) Recommendations for reducing secondary traumatisation in the police force and other first responders.

Apply for Project 6 here


Project 7

Secondary traumatisation in mental health professionals working with victims of child abuse

Background: First responders working with children are a particularly high-risk group for developing compassion fatigue. Understanding is lacking in terms of how to protect staff working with traumatised children from vicarious traumatisation, as well as the factors that influence the development of secondary traumatisation.

Objective: To identify factors involved in secondary traumatisation in those working with traumatised children, particularly risk and protective factors.

Methods: Latent variable and multilevel modelling will be used to address the research objectives, and findings corroborated through semi-structured interviews.

Secondments: The fellow will register in Ulster University from January 2017-March 2018 and conduct their non-academic placement in the Danish Children Centres from April 2018-January 2020. The PhD degree will be awarded from Ulster University.

Innovation: Research Project 7 will provide insights into the development, and risk and protective factors of secondary traumatisation amongst first responders to childhood trauma. This will lead to evidence-based strategies and specific recommendations to prevent secondary traumatisation among mental health professionals working with victims of child abuse.

Deliverables: (5.5) Identification of protective/risk factors that increase/decrease the risk of secondary traumatisation (5.6) Recommendations for reducing secondary traumatisation in mental health professionals working with victims of child abuse.

Apply for Project 7 here


Identifying context-specific risk for discrete trauma-exposed PSNI officer populations

Background: Police officers routinely encounter critical incidents such as violent offenders, road traffic fatalities, and mistreated children. Most studies assessing trauma exposure among police officers have focused on one specific domain of risk factors. However, it is more likely that combinations of risk factors are differentially health relevant and depend on the area of police work.

Objective: To assess trauma risk within four identified specialist PSNI roles: first responders, sexual crime, violent death, and crime investigation.

Methods: Multilevel modeling will be used to evaluate risk in relation to three context stressors: (1) personal stressors (e.g., bereavement, financial issues), (2) organisational stressors (e.g., role-demands, inter-rank communication), and (3) operational stressors (e.g., child abuse investigator vs. fatal roads policing team).

Secondments: The fellow will register in Trinity College Dublin from January 2017-March 2018, receive additional training in Ulster University from April 2018-July 2018, and conduct their non-academic placement in the Police Service of Northern Ireland from August 2018-January 2020. The PhD degree will be awarded from Trinity College Dublin. Please note that the candidate will have to undergo security vetting prior to their secondment in the PSNI. 

Innovation: Research Project 8 will identify key personal, organisational, and occupational factors that contribute to negative mental health outcomes among police officers, enabling the development of evidence-based treatments and organisational interventions to mitigate the deleterious effects of trauma-exposure among this population group.

Deliverables: (5.7) Identification of contextual and role-specific factors contributing to the risk of negative psycholocial responses to trauma in the police force (5.8) Development of role-specific, context sensitive and empirically based trauma risk management strategy for the PSNI.

Apply for Project 8 here

Project 8