Hostage-support network

Ella Rhodes reports on a call for volunteers to offer therapy.

A charity that supports hostages and their families has put out a call for psychologists, who are experienced in working with trauma, to join their network of volunteer therapists. Director of Hostage UK, Rachel Briggs OBE (pictured), spoke to us about an increasing need for specialist psychologists to offer their support to a group of people with very complex needs.

Currently, Briggs said, the charity has a small team of psychologists and psychiatrists who give their time to families and hostages free of charge. However, she added, the number of kidnappings the group is dealing with has risen. She said: ‘I think this is partly because the kidnapping of Brits around the world is going up and getting more complicated, potentially because of the number of high-profile kidnapping incidents in recent years. But also because our profile is rising and families know we’re there to help them. We’re keen to find wonderful, talented, experienced individuals who are psychologists but have a particular interest and expertise in trauma.’

The families of those who have been taken hostage and hostages themselves have a very complex and unique set of needs, Briggs explained: ‘Families are scared and for prolonged periods may not know if their loved one is alive or dead. Kidnappers often cease communication for months at a time as part of their communication strategy to really ramp up the pressure. Families are often very isolated – because of the secrecy that’s often necessary in most kidnapping cases. Then this is all compounded by the fact families often stop looking after themselves; they have chronic lack of sleep over months or even years. All the things which are important to keep the body and mind healthy slip by the wayside. When hostages return, and most do, thankfully, they’re traumatised in a different way – you have the challenge of bringing the hostage and family together, both who have been through their own traumas but in a very different way.’

The charity, Briggs said, aimed to create the UK’s first network of hostage and trauma experts, not only to help families and returning hostages but also to develop a community of best practice in these cases. She said: ‘There are relatively few psychologists who have experience in this area. We’re keen to bring those people together to increase our understanding of the psychological impacts of hostage-taking on families and hostages.’

Briggs was also keen to point out that time commitments for this sort of work are quite small: luckily kidnapping is still a relatively rare crime. If a psychologist has the family of a hostage in their area they may be required to offer around one hour a week or one hour a fortnight while that family requires support, but they may go six months or a year without being involved with any cases.

If you would be interested in volunteering visit hostageuk.org learn more about the charity and e-mail Coordinator Mags Heaton on [email protected] for information about how to get involved. Psychologists will be invited to all Hostage UK’s seminars and will be given a training day at least once a year.

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