Missing persons: presented by Penny Sharpe MP
Missing persons: presented by Penny Sharpe MP

Missing persons: presented by Penny Sharpe MP

In Australia approximately 35,000 people go missing each year. Of this number about 5% are known as the long-term missing.

Research from Australia and overseas reveals that many of the long-term missing suffer from various mental health problems and are at risk of suicide.

Yet this cohort of people is often overlooked when discussing suicide prevention and postvention. This presentation will report on the lived experience of families with a long-term missing person. It will highlight the problem these families face when they live with ambiguous loss and a grieving process which is often unresolved and not understood by health professionals.

In narrating their story retrospectively family members are able to recognize the behaviours of their loved one which were symptomatic of his/her mental illness and the risk of suicide.

The ambiguous loss they experience can lead them be frozen in their grief while living in the ‘space between’ knowing and not knowing. Family members themselves are at risk of physical and mental health and other problems. Greater communication between service providers for the families can assist in identifying those at risk of going missing and the likelihood of suicide.

Geoffrey Glassock is a Counselling Psychologist with initial training in Marriage and Family Counselling before becoming involved with issues of loss and grief following the Granville train disaster in 1977.

In that year the National Association for Loss and Grief was established and Geoffrey has been involved with the Association since its inception. He is a life member. He is one of a small group in Australia who pioneered education and training in loss and grief.

This has involved him in consultancy work and training with schools, hospitals universities, non-government agencies and the community at large. He is known internationally for his work and has contributed to many national and international conferences. In the late 80s Geoffrey was the first Australian to be invited to membership of the International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement. He has held senior academic appointments in education and nursing at the University of Sydney and worked in hospice/palliative care in Australia, South Africa and the UK. He is Chairperson of the APS College of Counselling Psychology NSW. His current research interest is on the Grief of Families of Missing Persons for which he was awarded a PhD in 2011 at the University of New England On Australia Day 2010 Geoffrey was awarded the Order of Australia (AM) for work in the area of loss, grief and bereavement and services to the Anglican Church nationally and internationally.

[ Pave the way to peace ]
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