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COllaborative Network for Training and EXpertise in psychoTraumatology

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CONTEXT (COllaborative Network for Training and EXpertise in psychoTraumatology)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-11-30

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 brought 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 facilitated a new cohort of researchers and practitioners who now have the capacity to translate research into practice, thereby mitigating the impact of psychotrauma in the EU. In this way, CONTEXT achieved its goal 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), were successful in addressing current and emergent skill and professional deficiencies that are essential to curb the adverse consequences of trauma exposure.
Designed as an ambitious, four-year European Industrial Doctorate officially launched on September 28th 2016, CONTEXT is an international consortium comprised of nine beneficiaries, who, together, have successfully built the capacity and expertise of twelve early-stage researchers (ESRs) to foster innovative practice and social enterprise in the area of psychotraumatology. All ESRs have completed their core and transferable skills 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 undertook over 110 individual trainings to further advance their skills specific to their individual research projects (IRPs). Following completion of a minimum of 14 months within one of three academic settings (Trinity College Dublin, Ulster University, and the University of Southern Denmark), all ESRs completed between 18-22 months on secondment to one of CONTEXT’s six non-academic beneficiaries (Police Service of Northern Ireland, Probation Bord of Northern Ireland, Spirasi, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, the Danish Red Cross, the Danish Children’s Centres). Working together, and as outlined in the rest of this final technical report, CONTEXT has successfully delivered on its three principal objectives, delivering 57 deliverables, passing 8 key milestones, and producing over 180 scientific and public engagement outputs over the last four years. Finding generated across the twelve IRPs have ultimately resulted in the incorporation of more evidence-based practices to improve the services offered to vulnerable groups by our non-academic beneficiary partners. At the time of writing, all twelve ESRs have successfully submitted their theses (D7.10). In recognition of the success of CONTEXT, and following a fruitful mid-term review held on August 20th, 2018, CONTEXT was put forward as an MSCA-ITN “success story” within the European Commission’s Research Executive Agency (REA). The final CONTEXT conference, held virtually on November 11th, 2020 marked the wrap-up of the CONTEXT programme after four years of collegial and supportive participation. The aim is to continue this work going forward as the newly launched MSCA European Psychotraumatology Research Unit.
WP 4 focused on developing better prevention, assessment, and training methods for the treatment of negative psychological responses to trauma among refugees and asylum-seekers. WP4 contributed to streamlining mental health assessment, prevention, and treatment processes for asylum seekers and refugees, towards reducing the strain on existing and future services. The findings from this WP are being 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 focused on frontline emergency personnel in humanitarian crises. It produced research that gives insight into the mechanisms by which vicarious trauma occurs, towards developing 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 remained an important gap with personal, cultural and contextual factors likely interacting to determine what interventions will be effective. This WP therefore provides 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 WP is currently being applied to develop new, 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 focused on factors that explain differences in risk for exposure to childhood trauma, subsequent development of trauma-related distress, and to thereafter make recommendations to prevent the perpetration of childhood- and gender-based violence. This WP addressed 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 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 be used towards reshaping 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.
Original secondment schedule
ESRs and CONTEXT Coordinators during Induction Week (March 2017)
Revised secondment schedule