Family impacts of the March 15 terror attacks

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Status: In-progress
Year: 2020
Funded: $92,364
Grant Type: Major Project Grant

On 15 March 2019, a white supremacist shooter attacked two mosques in Christchurch where approximately 300 people were present. Within minutes 71 people were shot and injured, 51 killed and dozens of witnesses severely traumatised. The scale and violence of this attack is unprecedented in NZ and is one of the worst mass shootings in history. Understanding the psychological impacts on this deliberately targeted group will provide culturally informed insights into their outcomes and needs over time. The Covid-19 pandemic has added a further layer of stress for this already highly trauma-exposed group, further highlighting the importance of this screening.

This study focuses on the families of those impacted, as concerns around the prolonged and significant impacts on affected relatives has been increasingly highlighted in the literature. Muslim research assistants and specialist mental health nurses will use culturally appropriate quantitative measures (provided in six languages in addition to English), open-ended questions and a nurse-administered clinical interview to gather data from first-degree relatives over 18. As a large component of the research is screening for mental health conditions, the team provides both clinical and cultural oversight with guidance from a local Muslim community reference group to ensure findings are likely to be accurate and clinically applicable. There is a clear pathway into specialist mental health services or other interventions, if necessary.

Researcher // Dr Ruqayya Sulaiman-Hill – University of Otago

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