Research on Travellers’ views about mental health and suicide published

Oct 23 2023 Posted: 09:40 IST

Traveller Mental Wellness Continuum: A qualitative peer research study of Travellers view 

The HSE network of Mental Health Service Coordinators for Travellers, in collaboration with the Health Promotion Research Centre at University of Galway, has launched a research study Traveller Mental Wellness Continuum: A qualitative peer research study of Travellers’ views.

The main findings include:

  • There is a range of community supports, services and actions that members of the Traveller community deem essential in promoting and protecting their mental health and wellbeing 
  • The importance of improving educational, training and employment opportunities, improving Traveller accommodation, curbing discrimination while celebrating and reviving Traveller culture 
  • Improving access to culturally appropriate mental healthcare. 

This study was funded by the HSE National Office of Suicide Prevention and the HSE Mental Health Engagement and Recovery national office.

The research project explored the views of Travellers on the range of improvements needed to promote mental wellbeing and reduce suicide and to create a more appropriate mental health service for Travellers. Seventeen Traveller peer researchers were employed to collect data in 10 counties across Ireland through a number of group discussions and individual interviews. 

The data indicates the importance of factors such as Traveller cultural identity, the right to equal opportunities and life choices, the detrimental effect of discrimination and the changes needed in how health services are delivered. Research findings shared shows that promoting Travellers mental wellbeing requires a social determinants, strengths-based approach, rooted in Traveller culture and identity. 

Speaking at the launch, Julie Duke, HSE Traveller Peer Support Worker and member of the Traveller Community, outlined: “An overarching recommendation stemming from this study is the implementation of a national plan to address the distinct mental health needs of the Traveller community.

“It’s vital that this national plan be spearheaded by Travellers themselves, with collaboration and support from both national and local agencies.”

Michael Ryan, Head of Mental Health Engagement & Recovery, National Mental Health Operations, HSE, said: “This research highlights the importance of engaging with members of the Traveller community, using a partnership approach, in order to create a mental health service provision that fits the needs of this community. Embedding an ethos of cultural safety and cultural humility and listening to Travellers’ ideas and suggestions helps to improve services and to create a more inclusive environment that strives towards recovery.”

The study shows a need to address the specific mental health needs of the Traveller community, through a process that is owned and led by members of the community, and supported by national and local agencies. A collaborative approach is critical to addressing the social determinants of Traveller mental health and the provision of a continuum of support encompassing mental health promotion, prevention, treatment and community support services based on a co-production and peer-led model of delivery.

John Meehan, Assistant National Director, Mental Health Planning and Head of National Office for Suicide Prevention, said: “The HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention was very pleased to support this valuable research, the clear findings of which we hope will advance our collective understanding of the mental health needs of Travellers across the country. In the context of suicide prevention, Travellers remain a priority group for targeted initiatives and interventions as outlined in Connecting for Life, our national strategy to reduce suicide. In order to affect change – and ultimately reduce deaths by suicide among Traveller communities – we must continue to build effective partnerships across the range of diverse community and statutory services working in suicide prevention, recovery, social inclusion, mental health and wellbeing.”

Professor Margaret Barry, Health Promotion Research Centre at University of Galway, said: “We are very pleased to have been involved in this collaborative project with the HSE Mental Health Service Coordinators for Travellers, and are very grateful to all the members of the Traveller community and Traveller organisations who made this study possible. This study adopted a peer research approach, whereby members of the Traveller community facilitated the data collection and analysis of Travellers’ views across the country on what actions are needed to support Traveller’s mental health and wellbeing. 

“The findings highlight the importance of enabling good lifelong mental health and wellbeing for Travellers through creating more supportive environments, including improving living conditions, education, training and employment opportunities, curbing discrimination, celebrating Traveller culture, and improving access to culturally appropriate services. The study findings provide an important basis for advancing the promotion of Traveller mental health and wellbeing as an urgent policy priority, including developing a continuum of Traveller-led services embracing mental health promotion, prevention, treatment and recovery.”

See the HSE website for the summary study here and the full report is available here.  


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