AAI | MHI – call for investment in trauma-informed services to support COVID-19 recovery

As a nation, Ireland has shown great resilience and solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we look forward to COVID recovery, our schools, workplaces and communities will need to adjust to the new shape of society and life and Mental Health Ireland and Alcohol Action Ireland believe, now more than ever, investment in trauma-informed care and services will be required.


The NGOs are calling for a commitment from the new Irish Government that frontline public services starting with mental health, addiction, homeless and criminal justice become trauma-informed. Schools too must become a place that recognises young people’s trauma and teachers must be supported to nurture trauma-informed environments.


Trauma-informed practice practically means[1]: 

  • integrating understanding of past and current experiences of trauma into all aspects of service delivery.
  • Promoting resilience and eliminating stigmatising language.
  • providing professionals with training in trauma to support recovery in families and communities.
  • making people feel safe and in control in environments that do not retraumatise 


Martin Rogan, CEO of Mental Health Ireland said:


“Once we understand the impact of trauma and the shadow it can cast over people’s lives, we can better respond to their mental health needs. By acknowledging and gaining a new insight, even many years later, we can help to address the hurt, and learn to move forward. This is not about forgetting the experience, but rather making sense of it, integrating and reducing its power over us and our lives. This is never easy work, but never has to be faced alone and with support brings recovery and empowerment. 

We are calling on politicians to be ambitious and to commit to investing in trauma-informed care and practices as part of any new Programme for Government.”


Sheila Gilheany, CEO of Alcohol Action Ireland said:


“We know with ambitious thinking and leadership, services can become trauma-informed. Our nearest neighbours Scotland have a national training plan in place to ensure that all frontline workers can recognise and deal with psychological trauma.  Police, social workers and nurses were among the staff to benefit from the plan, which is being rolled out to all frontline workers. For all of this to come to fruition, a central driving force with funding is required at government level to work to embed the concept of trauma-informed services, creating a shared common language and understanding around the issue.”


Editor’s Notes:

Trauma is a widespread, harmful and costly public health problem.[2] Traumatic life experiences can have a significant impact on people’s lives, increasing the risk of poorer physical and mental health and poorer social, educational and criminal justice outcomes.  Trauma can affect people at any stage in their lives and that particular sections of the population (e.g. children) are more vulnerable to traumatic experiences.[3]         

Research has shown the cost of trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences[4] across the lifespan. In a comprehensive Lancet paper calculating the cost of ACEs, Bellis et al found annual costs attributable to ACEs were estimated to be US$581 billion in Europe alone. [5] The study noted that ACEs are consistently an avoidable risk factor for some of the largest threats to public health and costs to health services. Trauma-informed health care, the researchers said, would ensure people receive support to “address underlying drivers of health-harming behaviours and the resultant NCDs. However, training on ACEs is rarely part of health-care and social-care curricula.


Read the full AAI and MHI position paper on trauma-informed care here: 


[1] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach.

[2] U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration SAMHSA, https://nicic.gov/samhsas-concept-trauma-and-guidance-trauma-informed-approach.

Magruder, Kathryn M et al. “Trauma is a public health issue.” European journal of psychotraumatology vol. 8,1 1375338. 9 Oct. 2017, doi:10.1080/20008198.2017.1375338

[3] Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA’s Concept of Trauma and Guidance for a Trauma-Informed Approach.

[4] Felitti, V.J., Anda, R.F., Nordenberg, D, et al. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) study. American Journal Preventative Medicine. 1998; 14: 245-258; Ashton, K., Bellis, M. & Hughes, (2016) Adverse childhood experiences and their association with health-harming behaviours and mental wellbeing in the Welsh adult population: a national cross-sectional survey; Bellis, M. A., Hughes, K., Leckenby, N., Jones, L., Baban, A., Kachaeva, M., Terzic, N. (2014). Adverse childhood experiences and associations with health-harming behaviours in young adults: surveys in eight eastern European countries. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 92(9), 641–655. doi:10.2471/BLT.13.1292

[5] Bellis et al, Life course health consequences and associated annual costs of adverse childhood experiences across Europe and North America: a systematic review and meta-analysis: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpub/article/PIIS2468-2667(19)30145-8/fulltext#seccestitle130