Utøya survivors lack support

A report shows that survivors had insufficient access to care in recent years

Photo: Rødt nytt / Wikimedia Commons
The survivors of Anders Behring Breivik’s Utøya massacre received an outpouring of support, but access to psychological help has waned through the years.

The Local

Survivors of the terror attack on the island of Utøya near Oslo on July 22, 2011, in which far-right extremist Anders Breivik shot and killed 69 members of the Norwegian Labor Party’s youth wing, have not received sufficient psychological support in the years since the massacre, says a new report.

The study was carried out by the National Center for Understanding Violence and Traumatic Stress (Nasjonalt kunnskapssenter for vold og traumatisk stress, NKVTS).

Many survivors found that treatment offers disappeared and that they were not proactively offered support during the period after the attack, reports broadcaster NRK.

“Some people didn’t need that much help until a year or two had passed. And then they just ended up in the normal queue for health services,” Grete Dyb of NKVTS told the broadcaster.

“Waiting in line was something people found difficult to do,” said psychiatrist and trauma researcher Dyb, who led the study.

Adrian Pracon, who was shot twice during the attack, said that he had found the “fading away” of support a problem as he tried to come to terms with what had happened.

“It can take a long time until post trauma and the serious consequences of it are felt. The last few years have been a challenge, I can’t deny that,” Pracon told NRK.

Pracon said that he found it difficult to speak up immediately after the event and that by the time he began to experience “physical and mental” symptoms, it was hard to see who to turn to.

All of those on Utøya at the time of the massacre were assigned a contact person in their local municipality who was responsible for coordinating follow-up checks and ensuring needs were met.

But for most of the Utøya survivors, this support was only valid for a year, according to the report. The standard of services provided also varied depending on municipality.

Dyb said that a contact person in such cases should be available for at least three years. “It is clear to us that our mental healthcare system is rigged for those who already have an established complaint. In this case we have a post-traumatic reaction that can develop and become a mental health issue at a later date. But this can be prevented with the right kind of support,” the psychiatrist said to NRK.

Consequences of untreated post-traumatic stress disorder can be serious, including addiction, antisocial behavior and depression, says Dyb.

In total 77 people were killed in Breivik’s massacre, in which a car bomb was set off in central Oslo in addition to the shootings on Utøya. Breivik was sentenced to at least 21 years in prison in 2012.

This article was originally published on The Local.

It also appeared in the March 24, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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