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COllaborative Network for Training and EXpertise in psychoTraumatology

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CONTEXT (COllaborative Network for Training and EXpertise in psychoTraumatology)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-08-31

Mental health disorders afflict more than one-third of the EU’s population annually at a cost of €432 billion. The ‘COllaborative Network for Training and EXcellence in psychoTraumatology’ (CONTEXT) is an international, interdisciplinary European Industrial Doctorate designed to address deficiencies in psychotraumatology training and innovation. CONTEXT brings together a collaboration of individuals across the academic, non-governmental and public sectors to provide a unique training experience to 12 ESRs. By granting ESRs access to populations not otherwise accessible in any other doctoral training programme, CONTEXT is facilitating a new cohort of researchers and practitioners who can translate research into practice, thereby mitigating the impact of psychotrauma in the EU. The goal of CONTEXT is to develop a high quality, innovative research training programme to build capacity and expertise, and foster innovative social enterprise in psychotraumatology. The nine CONTEXT beneficiaries represent a diverse intersectoral consortium well placed to train and supervise the 12 ESRs. Three interconnected research work packages, each targeting a priority population in Europe (asylum seekers and refugees; emergency-service personnel and humanitarian first-responders; and victims and perpetrators of childhood- and gender-based violence), are addressing current and emergent skill and professional deficiencies that are essential in curbing the adverse consequences of psychotrauma. CONTEXT enjoys support from highly regarded stakeholders at the political, scientific, and professional level.
CONTEXT was officially launched on September 28, 2016, in Dublin, Ireland. Twelve early stage researchers (ESRs) were successfully recruited and registered across three European universities (Trinity College Dublin, Ulster University, and University of Southern Denmark). In the first 18 months, the CONTEXT ESRs completed their core network-wide training in state-of-the-art applications of quantitative and qualitative research methods and data analysis, as well as training in the dissemination and communication of their research findings. In addition to these network-wide training events, the individual ESRs have undertaken specialised training in the development of skills specific to their individual research projects. The 12 ESRs spent their first 13 months located in their academic setting and received regular supervision from their academic and non-academic supervisors. Each ESR made significant progress in their research efforts over this time, notably acquiring ethical approval for their research from two separate ethics committees in two countries. Following the completion of their 13 months in their academic setting, the ESRs began their secondments with CONTEXT's six non-academic beneficiary partners in Europe. The ESRs will spend the remainder on their time located within each non-academic setting carrying out their research, thus maximizing the capacity for their research to influence the day-to-day work of their non-academic partners. The ESRs are in this process gathering data for their respective research projects within these non-academic settings and beginning the process of analyzing this data in order to address the objectives of the CONTEXT project. All ESRs also took part in the 15th European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies Conference from June 2-4th, 2017 in Denmark. Considered the most prominent psychotraumatology conference in Europe, the ESTSS conference offered a unique opportunity for the ESRs to present their research protocols and to promote the CONTEXT programme. CONTEXT enjoys the active participation of representatives from each beneficiary on its General Assembly and Supervisory Board. Three new ESR representatives, elected in March 2018, have been effective in communicating issues with the Supervisory Board and the Principal Investigator. As a cohort, the ESRs have created an environment that is collegial and supportive. The ESRs continue to benefit from an active and engaged international supervisory committee.
WP 4 focuses on developing better prevention, assessment, and training methods for the treatment of negative psychological responses to trauma among refugees and asylum-seekers. WP4 contributes to streamlining mental health assessment, prevention, and treatment processes for asylum seekers and refugees, and reducing the strain on existing and future services. The findings from this WP will be applied for the design of better social policies, procedures, and more efficient mental health interventions for asylum seekers and refugees entering the EU.

WP 5 focuses on frontline emergency personnel in humanitarian crises. It will produce research that gives insight into the mechanisms by which vicarious trauma occurs, and will develop preventative solutions to reduce burnout and increase resilience and retention. Despite the frequency with which trauma-related distress occurs amongst first responders, identifying the risk factors for, and protective-factors against, trauma-related distress remains an important gap with personal, cultural and contextual factors likely interacting to determine what interventions will be effective. This WP will provide insights into how vicarious traumatization occurs, those most at-risk, and the predictive and protective factors, and management-level interventions that can increase resilience and retention. The research produced by this research will inform future innovative strategies to reduce secondary traumatization amongst first responders and EU-based humanitarian responders, thus leading to decreased burnout and compassion fatigue, improved staff retention, and appropriate deployments.

WP 6 focuses on factors that explain differences in risk for exposure to childhood trauma, subsequent development of trauma-related distress, and thereafter make recommendations to prevent the perpetration of childhood- and gender-based violence. This WP addresses gaps in understanding by developing a limited field of research and gaining vital information regarding the exact mechanisms by which victims of childhood trauma can develop into individuals who perpetrate violence upon the next generation of citizens. These findings will provide insight into transgenerational cycles of violence and provide improved psychological treatment for victims, and limit the cycle of trauma and violence. Such insights will help reshape public policy in terms of how both victims and perpetrators of childhood- and gender-based violence should be treated.

All CONTEXT ESRs recieved state-of-the-art training in quantitative and qualitative methods, in dissemination, gender and cultural determinations of trauma responses, and public engagement methods. Furthermore, unlike traditional PhD programmes each ESR has received training through their secondment to their non-academic beneficiary. During these non-academic secondments, ESRs received experience in cross-sectoral collaborations, demonstrated trans-national flexibility, and gained the expertise and transferable skills necessary to disseminate their research findings across a number of academic, public, non-governmental, governmental, and humanitarian sectors, thereby increasing the likelihood that findings will be translated to improved social policy and practice.
ESRs and CONTEXT Coordinators during Induction Week (March 2017)
Revised secondment schedule
Original secondment schedule