2004 Annual Australasian Academic Award

National Award Recipient

PTSD among people with heroin dependence in the Australian Treatment Outcome Study
Katherine Mills
University of NSW

This study documents the prevalence and correlates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among Australian individuals with heroin dependence. Data was obtained from a cohort of 615 people dependent on heroin, 535 entering treatment for their heroin dependence and 80 individuals not in treatment. Trauma exposure (92%) and lifetime PTSD (41%) were highly prevalent. PTSD was prevalent across all treatment modalities, most commonly residential rehabilitation (52%) followed by maintenance therapies (42%), and detoxification (37%). The lowest prevalence was reported among those not in treatment (30%). Although men and women were equally likely to have experienced trauma (93% vs. 89%), women were more likely to develop lifetime PTSD (61% vs. 37%). For the large majority of those with PTSD, the condition was chronic (84%), with symptoms continuing for an average of 9.5 years. Those with PTSD had more extensive polydrug use histories, poorer general physical and mental health, and more extensive health service utilisation. It is concluded that PTSD is highly prevalent among individuals with heroin dependence, presenting a significant challenge to treatment providers.

Reference: Drug and Alcohol Dependence 77 (2005) 243–249

NSW Chapter Award

The problem of co-morbidity: Using event-related potentials to delineate temporal markers for posttraumatic stress disorder above co-morbid depression
Zoë Terpening
Sydney University

South Australian Award

Predicting children’s early responses to trauma: A brief longitudinal evaluation of acute PTSD symptoms
Thomas Nehmy
Flinders University

Little is known about children’s early reactions to traumatic events. The present study explored risk factors associated with acute PTSD symptoms in children presenting to hospital after single-incident trauma. Children (N = 30) and parents were assessed 2 weeks (Time 1; T1) and 8 weeks (Time 2; T2) post-trauma. PTSD symptoms, perceived threat of death, trauma-related unhelpful cognitions, subjective fear during trauma, heart rate, and parental anxiety were measured at both time points. Cognitive factors uniquely explained approximately 25% and 13% of the variance in T1 and T2 trauma symptoms, respectively. The relationships between both T1 perceived threat to life and T1 PTSD symptoms, and T1 and T2 PTSD symptoms, were partially mediated by unhelpful cognitions. Elevated heart rate at T1 was significantly associated with T2 PTSD symptoms. The results demonstrate the importance of cognitive factors within a psychobiological conceptualisation of acute trauma reactions in children.

Victorian Award

Trauma and posttraumatic reactions in German development aid workers: Prevalences and relationship to social acknowledgment
Bronwyn Jones
University of Melbourne

While on duty abroad developmental aid workers (DAWs) are at risk of being traumatized. We investigated the prevalence of traumatic events, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and subsyndromal PTSD as well as associations with duty features and the psychological variable of social acknowledgement as victim or survivor. Method: A total of 312 developmental aid workers from the governmental German Development Service (DED) were surveyed by use of a trauma list, demographic questionnaire, the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale (PDS) and the Social Acknowledgement Questionnaire (SAQ). In addition, participants answered an open question concerning the amelioration of the DED’s care provision.

Reference: International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 52, 91-100.

New Zealand Award

To resolve or not resolve: Past trauma and secondary traumatic stress in volunteer crisis workers
Petrina Hargrave
Victoria University of Wellington

Trauma workers may be at risk of secondary traumatic stress (STS) through indirect exposure to traumatic material, especially if they have experienced personal trauma. This is the first study to ask whether past trauma resolution influences STS and was examined in 64 volunteer crisis workers, a greatly ignored population. Those with non-resolved personal trauma had higher scores on an STS measure than volunteers whose trauma histories were resolved, while the latter showed less STS than the sample as a whole. STS was unrelated to volunteer experience, exposure to victims, or the type of cases found most distressing, indicating that accepted STS risk factors may not apply to volunteers. Findings have resounding implications for the popular view of trauma history as an STS risk factor: this may double as both a significant peril and a protection, depending on whether the past trauma is resolved.

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