By Chinedu Onyejelem
The suicide rate among Travellers is seven times the national average, a new report has revealed.
Based on research completed last November, Young Pavees – Their Mental Health Needs also calls for a more concerted approach to turning around the mental health crisis among Traveller youths.
Traveller health worker Michael Collins spoke of his frustration in accessing services for his clients, including having to make nearly 20 phone calls just to get an answer from service providers.
“It’s people’s lives we’re dealing with and I feel we can all do a lot more,” Collins told guests at the report launch, including Anne O’Connor, national director of the mental heath division of the HSE.
O’Connor said the HSE is committed to improving access to mental health services for Travellers and is “currently working with the primary care division to examine the best way of achieving this” while continuing “to engage with organisations such as Pavee Point to ensure that the development of any new service or enhancement to existing service is informed by evidence and research. ”
Insufficient services for Travellers throughout the island of Ireland were previously highlighted in the All Ireland Traveller Health Study conducted nearly six years ago. That report identified mental health issues as 32 per cent more prevalent among the Traveller community than the general population, and limiting normal daily activities for more than half of all Travellers.
Constant discrimination was blamed by every single Traveller who took part in the new report as “a core part of their experience and [has significant] impacts on mental health,” said the Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre, which published the report.
Recommendations include the setting up of Traveller-led support services to encourage discussion about mental health and depression in the Traveller community, and that positive mental health and coping mechanisms be communicated to young people in early secondary education.