The Traveller community is experiencing a mental health crisis 2 months ago

The Traveller community is experiencing a mental health crisis

"We’ve all heard that expression – it’s okay not to be okay, but it’s not okay not to be okay for decades."

The Traveller community has been experiencing a mental heath crisis for years and say they feel let down by the empty promises of help made by governments.

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Traveller groups and campaigners gathered in front of Leinster House on Tuesday to highlight the issue.

According to the National Traveller Mental Health Network, there are "unprecedented high rates of suicide and self-harm" in the community.

Travellers face discrimination on a daily basis in all areas of their life, which is reflected in the high levels of unemployment, low levels of educational attainment, and the poor living conditions experienced by many. All of these factors have a significant impact on their mental health.

Senator Eileen Flynn, who delivered an impassioned speech at the demonstration on Tuesday, has been tirelessly calling on the Government to address the crisis and take action.

"When we say 11% of deaths in the Traveller community are by suicide, these are not just statistics - these are people who are dying," Ms. Fylnn tells Her.

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Photo:Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

"Traveller mothers and fathers look at their children struggling with mental health and we want a better future for our children. A lot of the elderly in our community struggled for years with their own mental health.

"We’ve all heard that expression – it’s okay not to be okay. But it’s not okay not to be okay for decades."

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According to a 2017 Behaviour & Attitudes survey, 82% of Travellers have been affected by suicide, and almost half of those affected were in their immediate or wider family.

A standalone national Traveller mental health strategy, as Ms. Flynn says, is one of the ways the pressures on the community could be alleviated. A strategy has been promised, but it has not yet been implemented.

"When it was put in the programme for government, it gave people hope. This can’t be a false hope – the government has to stand by their commitment," she said.

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"Not standing by commitments is something that has happened to our community for too many years. It’s not about reinventing the wheel, because the wheel’s already there. It’s about implementation.

"The strategy is also about tackling all mental health issues with a good, sustainable programme. We’re not asking for special treatment... [we're] asking for what we were promised.

Summing up the demands of the community and the National Traveller Mental Health Network, she said: "We need a stand-alone national Traveller mental health strategy. We need a ring-fenced budget for this critical work.

"We need a National Traveller Mental Health Steering Group, and we need the vital expertise and voices of the National Traveller Mental Health Network on that steering group.

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"And we need a firm timeline for action, to make sure the work gets done."

Feature image via Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie