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