Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Concern at traveller suicide rates

The shame of admitting mental health problems within the travelling community is driving people to suicide

The shame and stigma of admitting a mental health problem is driving members of the travelling community to suicide, it has emerged.

Petra Daly, director of the National Traveller Suicide Project, revealed her office has been told about 12 traveller deaths by suicide so far this year.

Studies show suicide rates among the traveller community are six times higher than in the settled population, accounting for at least 11% of all deaths.

Ms Daly said the statistics were horrifying.

"There is an urgent need to begin to deal with and understand the reality of suicide and mental health issues and how they affect the traveller community and other minority groups," she said.

"People feel shame and stigma admitting they are struggling and when they do find the courage to look for help it can be extremely frustrating when services don't understand their culture."

There are an estimated 30,000 travellers living in Ireland.

Ms Daly said providers and breadwinners in the community believe they cannot discuss their feelings in case it shows a weakness, while those forced into settled accommodation complain of feeling "boxed-in".

Discrimination and having their livelihoods curtailed during the recession are also factors, she added.

The Traveller Counselling Service called on the Government to ringfence 5% of the mental health budget to ensure measures to tackle suicide are implemented in a culturally sensitive way.

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