THE ISSUE

Over 40,000 missing persons incidents are reported to Australian police annually. Whilst 90% of people are found safe and well within a week, approximately 1% will many remain missing long term.

Reasons for a disappearance vary widely; misadventure, mental health, abduction, dementia, migration, conflict and more. Approximately 85% of cases in Australia pertain to mental health. About 1-2% are criminal in nature.

In Australia, a missing person is defined as anyone who is reported missing to police, whose whereabouts are unknown, and where there are fears for the safety or concern for the welfare of that person. A long-term missing person is someone who has been missing for more than three months.

Anyone can go missing, for any number of reasons.

Research has shown that for each missing individual, at least 12 others are directly affected by their disappearance; financially, emotionally, and psychologically. The impact is profound. The unique form of grief families and friends of missing people experience is called Ambiguous Loss. Many psychologists consider Ambiguous Loss to be the most traumatic kind of grief and the most unmanageable form of stress.

*Ambiguous Loss, the theory and the book; Emeritus Professor Dr Pauline Boss (Harvard University Press, 1999/2000)