Minister for Mental Health and Older People,  Mary Butler, TD visited Pavee Point to discuss much needed action on Traveller mental health as part of commitments in the Programme for Government. 

The National Traveller Health Action Plan is due to be published in September, said Minister Butler and gave commitment that the Plan be would resourced which was welcomed. 

Minister Butler heard from our Traveller Mental Health Workers about the Traveller mental health crisis, with the suicide rate 7 times higher than non-Travellers. 

“Every Traveller family has been touched by suicide at this stage,” said Patrick Reilly, Mental Health Worker Pavee Point. “It’s an epidemic and as we are a close knit community this affects everyone. We also know that one of the triggers for suicide is bereavement by suicide.” 

Here Geraldine McDonnell (L) Patrick Reilly (M) and Lynsey Kavanagh (R) speaking at a meeting with the Minister. Photo by Derek Speirs

Geraldine McDonnell, Mental Health Worker Pavee Point told the Minister that the work of Traveller Health Units and Primary Health Care Projects are vital for Travellers on the ground and without sustainable funding the work cannot continue. 

“We know from the All Ireland Traveller Health Study that the vast majority of Travellers access health information from projects and the HSE’s own research last year found that 86% of Travellers got their COVID-19 health from projects but we need further investment and commitment to ring-fenced funding.” 

Patrick Reilly, added that Traveller health must be mainstreamed in the development and design of existing/upcoming policies or services, including mental health. “We need inclusion by design, rather than exclusion by accident – Travellers need to be involved in the design and delivery of health services – including mental health services.”

Visit by Minister Mary Butler TD (Minister of State at the Dept. of Health) to Pavee Point Traveller and Roma Centre. Photo by Derek Speirs