National missing persons coordination centre

Impacts of missing persons

Anyone, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or educational background, may face the issue of someone they know becoming a missing person. The impact on families and friends, and the missing people themselves, can be both profound and multi-faceted. Commonly reported impacts on family and friends of missing persons include health consequences, time off from work, and financial costs associated with the search.

Impacts on families and friends

Most missing persons are reported to police by family. Research reveals that for every missing person reported, on average at least 12 other people are affected whether it is emotionally, physically, psychologically or financially. For families, not knowing what has happened to someone they love is devastating.

Impacts on missing persons

For the missing person themselves it is often difficult to find the support they require to address their situation. Research conducted in the UK found that “being labelled as missing was traumatic […] and the loss of control to talk about their experiences in a way that was meaningful for them added to the trauma.” Geographies of Missing Persons 2013

People who intentionally go missing often do so to escape or remove themselves from something that isn’t making them happy. These people are generally lacking the support they require to manage their situation and may feel that going missing is their only option. Improving community support – particularly around mental health – is key to reducing the impacts on missing persons.

Impact on the community

Part of our mandate is to reduce the impact of missing persons on the Australian community. Awareness of the issue and enhancing community support mechanisms are key parts of our strategy. Our Supporting those who are left behind (PDF 1.0 MB) package is a counselling framework aimed at increasing the support for families of missing persons provided by health and welfare professionals.

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Australian Federal Police