Ireland leads International PhD Programme to research trauma experienced by Refugees - June 20th

Biggest EU Funding drawdown to date of €12.9million for Innovative Training Network Call in Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions / Horizon 2020

Today (Wednesday June 20th 2018) is World Refugee Day, held every year to commemorate the strength, courage and perseverance of millions of refugees.  The latest figures from the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, show that at least 65.6 million people have been forcibly displaced within their own countries or across borders. Many have been exposed to highly traumatic experiences resulting in complex mental health problems, including post traumatic stress disorder.

EU Funding of €3.3m from Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions in Horizon 2020 has enabled the Centre for Global Health in Trinity College Dublin to lead an International PhD Programme for research into trauma-exposed populations. The project entitled ‘CONTEXT’ (COllaborative Network for Training and EXcellence in psychoTraumatology’) will see twelve doctoral researchers study the psychological effects of exposure to traumatic life events among unique traumatised groups including refugees, asylum seekers and forcibly displaced migrants entering Europe from conflict zones.

Dr. Frédérique Vallières is a lecturer in the School of Psychology and the Principal Investigator of the CONTEXT project based at the Centre for Global Health in Trinity College Dublin: “The emphasis of the CONTEXT project is on conducting research that is of priority to the organisations and to the clients which they serve so as to ensure that research findings are translated into better procedures, policies, practices, and ultimately outcomes for vulnerable persons.”

During the project the researchers will spend half of their training with implementing partner organizations including the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, SPIRASI and the Danish and Columbian Red Cross, gaining front-line experience working with survivors of traumatic exposure.

Rachel Frost is a PhD student at Ulster University, and is currently based in Ireland, working with the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre and Spirasi, an Irish organisation which provides a range of specialist services for asylum seekers and refugees with a concern for survivors of torture: “Despite similar experiences individuals vary considerably in their psychological reaction to trauma. My research will evaluate the role that environmental factors play in determining an individual’s psychological response to trauma as such factors may be more amenable to intervention compared to pre-migratory trauma”.This alliance of academic and non-academic partners will generate knowledge that enables us to assess if we are appropriately responding to the mental health needs of some of the world’s most vulnerable populations, and in addition, will contribute towards improved evidence-based interventions for traumatic stress”


Camila Perera is a PhD student at TCD and is currently on secondment with the Columbian Red Crescent: “Through my research with CONTEXT, I will be working with the Colombian Red Cross and the Psychosocial Reference Centre of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to study how Colombian Red Cross Volunteers who do not have a formal mental health qualification can be trained and supervised to provide a structured and simplified psychological intervention. A key deliverable of my research will be the development of an evidence-based protocol for Red Cross volunteers (in and outside Colombia) on how to implement simplified psychological interventions. I’ll be leaving on June 25th” for my first trip. During the project I’ll visit Colombia 3-4 times staying 2-3 weeks each time.”

Success for Ireland in Horizon 2020

CONTEXT is an Innovative Training Network (ITN). Figures release recently show that Ireland was successful in drawing down €12.9 million in EU funding via the MSCA Innovative Training Networks 2017 call. There were 9 coordinators from Irish institutions with a success rate of 14.6% compared to the EU 7.45% success rate.

Dr. Geraldine Canny, Head of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Office based at the Irish Universities Association: “We are delighted with this excellent result for Ireland. These high quality doctoral training network programmes involve international collaborations between the academic, industry and CSO sectors in diverse research areas and will lead to increased numbers of entrepreneurial, highly employable graduates.”

Speaking about the benefits of being a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions fellow Camila says: “The fellowship has given me the opportunity to carry out action research in a humanitarian setting and to answer a research question that applies to an organization’s day-to-day work. The experience I gain through my MSCA ITN Fellowship will allow me to further my career in research in global mental health in humanitarian settings”.

For Dr. Vallières there are tangible benefits in being part of an Innovative Training Network: “The collaboration between our partner groups will provide researchers with a unique opportunity to make discoveries that would not otherwise be possible where these sectors work in isolation.”



More Information:

Lia O’Sullivan, Head of Communications, Irish Universities Association  01 6764948