Irish Travellers are in the midst of a suicide and mental health crisis and the Irish Government has consistently failed them, a member of the community has alleged.
A study in 2010 found that the rate of suicide among the Traveller community was seven times higher than in the settled community and other surveys have since suggested that the problem has only gotten 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,” Maggie McDonagh, a member of the National Traveller Mental Health Network, told The Hard Shoulder.
“There’s many reports that have been done, there’s many promises that have been made but absolutely nothing has been implemented and… we are in a mental health crisis at the moment.”
The roots of the crisis lie in a lack of adequate housing, education and culture specific services, Ms McDonagh believes.
She also blamed “systemic and ingrained prejudice” in Irish society against the Traveller community.
Standing in solidarity with a huge turnout of people, calling for more resources and concern from Government in tackling the #MentalHealth emergency amongst the Traveller community.
It is a crisis and must be responded to with genuine concern and immediacy. pic.twitter.com/TyzXNWOBk3
— Thomas Pringle T.D. (@ThomasPringleTD) May 31, 2022
Over the years all of these issues have been raised with the Government but officials have failed to deliver even on a mental health action plan for the community:
“That has never come to fruition. We’ve been promised so many things to be implemented over the years that never have been,” she said.
Earlier today dozens of Travellers gathered outside Leinster House to demand action from the Government and Hugh Friel from the Donegal Traveller Project told Newstalk that the issue needed to be taken more seriously:
“If this had been any other group within Irish society they would have put in an action plan straight away,” he said.
“I remember when the Farmers’ Association had suicide [groups] set up, they set up counselling, they took a number of key actions.
“If you look at the traveller community, [the level of suicide] is seven times higher. It’s astonishing that the Government hasn’t [put in place] an action plan in relation to the suicide rate.
“We need interventions, we need a strategic plan and we need someone from Government to drive it.”
If you have been affected by this issue you can call Samaritans on 116 123 at any time of the day, seven days a week.
Main image: File photo shows a stressed teenager. Picture by: Aleksandr Davydov / Alamy Stock Photo