The University of Groningen is starting a three-year study this week of the effectiveness of a treatment for the loved ones of missing people. During the study, help will be provided that comprises cognitive behavioural therapy and elements of mindfulness. The researchers want to establish whether the treatment can help reduce post-traumatic stress and increase the participants’ wellbeing. The study is funded by the Victim Support Fund (Fonds Slachtofferhulp).
Between 1500 and 2000 people in the Netherlands have currently been missing for more than a year. Research in Great Britain and Australia has shown that violence and accidents are one of the main causes of a person’s disappearance. An estimated 50% of the loved ones that missing people leave behind experience complex grief and symptoms of post-traumatic stress, but so far there has been relatively little research worldwide into how these symptoms develop and which treatment methods are effective.
Professor Jos de Keijser: ‘We’re talking about people who wake each morning wondering whether there’ll be any news, and who in the meantime imagine the most extreme scenarios. That’s not conducive to good health. We use mindfulness and cognitive therapy to try to reduce these kinds of thoughts.’
During the study, the researchers will track the nature, gravity and development of psychological symptoms in the loved ones of long-term missing persons. Those loved ones who qualify for psychological support will be offered an intervention comprising cognitive behavioural therapy and elements of mindfulness. A national psychologist network has been set up to ensure that the therapy is in accordance with the treatment protocol that has been drawn up.
Anybody whose loved one has been missing for at least three months can participate in the study. If you are interested, you can find information about the study and treatment, and can register on the website
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