Vi­o­lence, ne­glect, and stress might not ap­pear on their death cer­tifi­cates but they will have short­ened the lives of the chil­dren of Smyl­lum

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - EXCLUSIVE - – Dr Ereni Sk­outa By Gor­don Black­stock & Janet Boyle gblack­stock@sun­day­

NE­GLECT and abuse at Smyl­lum will have short­ened the lives of the chil­dren liv­ing there, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts.

Ereni Sk­outa, a lead­ing psy­chi­a­trist, said trauma in child­hood can have a dev­as­tat­ing im­pact on fu­ture phys­i­cal and men­tal health.

Dr Sk­outa, a lead­ing child psy­chi­a­trist, voiced fears the Smyl­lum regime cut short the lives of chil­dren af­ter scru­ti­n­is­ing the death cer­tifi­cates un­cov­ered dur­ing our in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The records re­veal the causes of death of the 402 chil­dren who died at Smyl­lum Park, where the death rate was three times the na­tional death rate for chil­dren.

The ex­pert, who said that, while abuse and ne­glect is not recorded on death cer­tifi­cates, it was likely to have been a con­trib­u­tory fac­tor.

Dr Sk­outa, Scot­tish sec­re­tary of the Child and Ado­les­cent fac­ulty of the Royal Col­lege of Psy­chi­a­trists, said: “Liv­ing un­der such a reign of stress has been proven to take years off these chil­dren’s life ex­pec­ta­tion.

“How­ever, the con­tri­bu­tion their child­hood abuse made to

‘ Liv­ing un­der such stress takes years off life ex­pectancy

their early deaths will not ap­pear in their death cer­tifi­cates.

“The stress af­fects their brains and hearts mak­ing them more likely to com­mit sui­cide and de­velop heart dis­ease.

“These chil­dren are also more likely to be­come ad­dicted to al­co­hol or drugs as adults.

“This also short­ens their lives. A greater un­der­stand­ing is needed of sur­vivors of child­hood abuse.”

The Sun­day Post spent three months comb­ing the ar­chives to find the death cer­tifi­cates of 402 chil­dren where Smyl­lum was listed as the place of death or nor­mal res­i­dence.

Causes of death in­clude ac­ci­dents and dis­eases such as tu­ber­cu­lo­sis, flu and scar­let fever.

Lead­ing foren­sic medicine ex­pert, Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor An­thony Busut­til, of Ed­in­burgh Univer­sity, said the num­ber of chil­dren liv­ing at Smyl­lum would speed the spread of con­ta­gious and po­ten­tially fa­tal dis­ease.

He said: “The in­ci­dence of in­fec­tious dis­eases in the home was that of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion.

“If there was over­crowd­ing, in­fec­tious dis­eases would spread more quickly.

“The higher the pop­u­la­tion of the home the more likely the chil­dren were to get in­fec­tious dis­eases.

“If a child got TB it would die promptly, per­haps die later than those with TB in the com­mu­nity, but nev­er­the­less die.

“There were no an­tibi­otics or TB vac­cines avail­able at that time to pre­vent those deaths.

■ Josie DrageDawes af­ter lay­ing a wreath for the chil­dren of Smyl­lum at St Mary’s on Friday


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