As part of our strategic review, Spinal Injuries Ireland commissioned the NUIG Department of Psychology to survey our service users in 2018. They investigated their experience of living with a SCI and their satisfaction of our services. They also gathered suggestions on the future direction of Spinal Injuries Ireland for our 2019 – 2023 strategy. As part of this research, focus groups were conducted with key stakeholders and family members to gather essential qualitative evidence for strategic direction.

 Why we did this research piece?

This Spinal Injuries Ireland survey was carried out to describe the profile, impact and consequences of spinal injury for SII clients. The survey provides an update on the findings from the last survey conducted in 2014 by Dr Katrina Collins. This most recent survey looked at living situation, personal independence, access and transport, finances and employment; perceptions, suggestions, and satisfaction with SII services; Social support, resilience, distress, and challenges, so that we could get a better understanding of the needs of those affected by SCI.

 The survey was designed and analysed by Dr Pádraig MacNeela, Senior Lecturer at the NUI Galway School of Psychology, who also carried out interviews with family members.

 What were the main findings?

  • Road traffic accidents and falls were the most commonly reported causes of spinal cord injury (24%) followed by a medical cause (23%) and sports injury (9%).
  • Three-quarters have a medical card, and 38% of those on medical card say finances are a big challenge, compared with 16% of others.
  • Two-thirds of medical card holders said that the possibility of losing their medical card was a big impact on their outlook on employment.
  • 40% of participants were concerned about employer attitudes to people with disabilities.
  • Over 60% cited physical pain and 55% stated physical issues (e.g., bowel / bladder) were significant challenges.
  • Half of the participants received scores suggesting severe or moderate mental distress.
  • 77% of clients with a mental health challenge also had stressful physical challenges with bladder and bowel control. People who had mental health as a major challenge were three times more likely to report finances or social life problems as a major challenge.
  • 50% report sometimes / often experiencing social isolation from others.
  • 44% say spinal injury has made them a stronger person.
  • Wheelchair users are less likely to report sadness some / most of the time (6% vs. 26% of unaided walkers), or that mental health was a big challenge (23% of wheelchair users vs. 38% of unaided walkers).
  • Wheelchair users are less likely to be on / under poverty line (19% vs. 31% of unaided walkers), and more likely to have a medical card (80% vs. 69% of unaided walkers).
  • In satisfaction ratings of SII services, information sources / resources were highly rated (e.g. magazine, website, social media, emails, conference, resource centre and the community outreach officers).

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