Newswise — A new website and podcast series are launching today (28 July) to tackle the myths and misunderstandings around missing persons issues. 

Missing Persons Uncovered seeks to empower the public to protect vulnerable loved ones with real-life testimonials and insights from practitioners in the field.

Research by the University of Portsmouth’s Professor Karen Shalev-Greene estimates some eight million people go missing around the world each year, and 155,000 go missing in the UK alone. But the reasons people disappear are varied, complex, personal and rooted in wider social issues.

A missing person can be of any age and vulnerable for a number of reasons. From mental health issues,dementia, or even abduction, the terminology itself can present a challenge to practitioners who want to help the public understand how to assess the risk to a loved one and seek appropriate support.

Karen has teamed up with Caroline Humer, a US-based child protection expert with more than 20 years’ experience, to create the podcast and the website. The podcast begins with a double bill of episodes that define what it means to go missing, explore the reasons people disappear, as well as the process for reporting.

Karen is a Professor in Missing Persons Studies and her interest is in challenging the ‘missing persons pandemic’ and supporting those who disappear. She said: “My father was a fighter pilot in Israel and he was captured during the Yom Kippur War. He was considered missing in action for a few days and when he returned he would occasionally disappear for several days. Years later when I went to a conference on missing persons, I realised that this is what I'll be focussing on for the rest of my working life.”

The Missing Persons Uncovered podcast aims to get beneath the surface of an emergency nations are facing across the world. But Caroline says there are many misconceptions that are hindering the safe search and return of missing people: “In many TV shows and movies it is still portrayed that when reporting a missing person, one would have to wait 24 or 48 hours. This is a myth we need to debunk as it hinders the actual investigation as well as puts the missing person at greater risk.”

The pair have recorded conversations with world-leading academics and practitioners, who are also working to raise public awareness and help people understand what action to take when a loved one goes missing or may be vulnerable to this. Interviewees range from former police heads to a search and rescue volunteer, and those working for charities that support missing persons, their families and services.

Karen and Caroline hope a mix of real-life testimonials and first-hand experiences from relatives of missing persons will help listeners recognise the warning signs and feel empowered to take action to protect their loved ones. Caroline said: “Our goal is to reach the general public and provide them with knowledge on how prevalent the issue is and what they can do to help support the missing person or the organisations involved in protecting and finding them.”

Find out more about the Missing Persons Uncovered project, listen to the podcast and find links to support on the website

You can follow the podcast on your favourite app, or listen via