'Prejudice' | 

Traveller community call on Government to tackle 'mental health crisis'

A 2010 study found that suicide rates in the Traveller community were seven times higher than the national average, despite making up only 1pc of the population

Senator Eileen Flynn addresses members of the Traveller community holding a protest outside Leinster House on Tuesday (Niall Carson/PA)

Neasa Cumiskey

An Irish Traveller has said that the community is in the middle of a “mental health crisis” and are receiving next to no help from the Government.

The 2010 All Ireland Traveller Health Study found that suicide rates in the Traveller community were seven times higher than the national average, despite the fact that they make up only 1pc of the country’s population.

And Maggie McDonagh, a member of the National Traveller Mental Health Network, explained that research suggests that the problem is only getting worse

“We know, anecdotally, and from working within the community… that it has really, really increased over the last 12 years since that study was done,” she told Newstalk’s The Hard Shoulder.

“There are many reports that have been done, there’s many promises that have been made but absolutely nothing has been implemented. We are in a mental health crisis at the moment.

“We’ve had members of the community as young as 9 pass away from suicide.”

Maggie said that issues with accommodation and access to education all contribute to the mental health crisis among Travellers.

She added that the “systemic and ingrained prejudice” against Travellers was also to blame.

“There’s this prejudice against Travellers that we’re a certain kind of people or that we do certain things.

“We do have a separate culture. We have separate ways of living.

“When you try to access service and you’re hit with prejudice first off, it prevents people from accessing services in the future.”

Maggie said that these issues have been raised with the Government countless times but officials failed to deliver on resources like a mental health action plan.

“That has never come to fruition. We’ve been promised so many supports and so many things to be implemented over the years that never really happened.”

Dozens of Travellers gathered outside Leinster House yesterday to call on the Taoiseach to recognise their right to access appropriate mental health services.

The National Traveller Mental Health Network said that successive governments have failed to address the "dire conditions" in which Travellers are living.

Activist and chairperson of the National Traveller Mental Health Network, Mags Casey, said the community is “on their knees”.

Ms Casey said discrimination has caused a “mental health crisis” in the community.

“If you’re a young person and you can’t get an education and you can’t get employment and you’re facing discrimination every day of your life and if you’ve a family trauma in your life, that’ll all build up,” she told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

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