Ethnic needs in mental health for members of the Traveller community

Mental health services should have ethnic or cultural identifiers for members of the Traveller community to help deal with problems including high suicide rates, according to an expert committee which looked at the issue.

In an article published in the latest edition of the Irish Association of Social Workers’ Journal, a principal social worker at Dublin South Central Adult Mental Health Services outlines how the group decided, on balance, that identifying the level of Traveller interaction across mental health services would mean “routine monitoring of trends would be facilitated and appropriate care provided”.

Frank Browne was a member of the Traveller Mental Health Sub-Committee of the National Traveller Monitoring and Advisory Committee, alongside representatives of Traveller support groups, the HSE, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health.

According to the article: “The [Traveller Mental Health] sub-committee debated the pros and cons of an ethnic or cultural identifier, and appreciated that there would not be universal agreement, with legitimate concerns around confidentiality and potential fears that the disclosure of Traveller identity might result for some in experiencing greater discrimination.

“While conscious of these concerns, the sub-committee nonetheless concluded that the benefits far outweigh any concerns if, in the long term, sufficient data is to be available to monitor progress in facilitating treatment and reducing suicide rates among the Traveller community.”

The sub-committee’s recommendations were to contribute to the next National Traveller Health Strategy and Mr Browne said as far as the group was concerned ethnic identifiers were “a no-brainer”.

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