HC Deb 27 May 1976 vol 912 cc623-4
16. Mr. Moonman

asked the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will give consideration to the setting up of a detailed research project into the psychiatric effects of terrorist activity in Northern Ireland: and if he will make a statement on such evidence as exists at present.

Mr. Concannon

This is a subject that is closely monitored by the Northern Ireland Department of Health and Social Services, in conjuction with specialists in this field, and I am doubtful whether a detailed research project would provide practical benefit.

Mr. Moonman

Is my hon. Friend aware that many of us appreciated the initiative by the Secretary of State in regard to the research project in the southern part of Ireland? Will he consult the Secretary of State for Health and Social Security to see whether it would be possible for some of the NHS budget to be diverted to the mental health sector? There is sufficient evidence to justify this.

Mr. Concannon

We have our own DHSS in Northern Ireland. All the evidence is that terrorist activity has not affected the pattern of psychiatric illness. There has been a modest increase in the number of patients admitted to hospital, but the hospital population has tended to fall. There has been a significant decrease in depressive illnesses in Belfast and other riot-affected areas. The suicide rate has fallen by 50 per cent.

Mr. Sandelson

My hon. Friend is aware of my interest in this matter. Can he say to what extent young people in the Province have been psychologically affected and, in particular, how their educational progress has been affected by terrorism and civil disturbance?

Mr. Concannon

I have much learned advice and opinion on this matter. The psychological effects of civil disturbance on children can be divided into short-term and long-term effects. In the former, children enjoy the excitement of the situation and relatively few become disturbed, because their anti-social behaviour is condoned within the framework of the community. In the latter, when a settlement is brought about, those with feelings of violence prejudice and bigotry will find it more difficult to adjust to society and will persist in anti-social behaviour, causing problems for police, educationists and numerous other social services. All that I have to add to that advice is "Amen".