Munster Travellers more likely to be affected by suicide

File photo.

Travellers in Munster are more likely to be affected by suicide, experience isolation and mental health difficulties, and be out of work compared to the national average.

The findings were revealed in regionalised data taken from the B&A National Traveller Community Survey, with detailed Munster results presented in Cork yesterday. It showed that while there were broad similarities in responses from those in Munster compared with overall national findings, some issues were more acute among Travellers living in the province.

It found some troubling variations when compared with the national figures. For example, while three out of 10 people polled nationally said they were disappointed in life in general, among the Munster cohort this was closer to 40%. Nationally, 60% of those polled were not currently working, but in Munster the figure was 76%.

Nationally, 45% of those questioned said they were concerned about mental health issues, but in Munster the figure was 53%. Similarly, while 22% of those polled across the country said they felt a sense of isolation, in Munster, the corresponding figure was 31%.

There is already concern over the disproportionately high suicide rate among the Travelling community, and the national figure showed that 82% of respondents said they had been affected by suicide, while 43% said it had occurred within the wider family and 26% said it had taken place in the immediate family.

However, regarding the latter figure, four in 10 people in Munster said suicide had occurred in the immediate family, almost double the national figure.

Among the findings linked to accommodation, 30% of respondents in Munster said they still travelled, higher than the national figure.

Bridget Carmody of the Cork Traveller Women’s Network said while there had been some positive changes compared with the findings of a previous survey from 2002 — and in particular, children remaining longer in the education system — in other instances the situation seemed to have worsened. She cited accommodation and mental health as being examples of situations affecting Travellers that had deteriorated in recent years. National headline results from the survey of 481 people were released last year.

The survey also took the views of the settled community when it came to their perceptions of the Travelling community. Jacinta Brack, who presented the findings, said there appeared to have been a “hardening” of attitudes, with 31% of respondents stating they viewed the Travelling community in a positive light, and 31% saying they viewed Travellers negatively — both higher percentages than in previous polls. The poll also found that 35% of those questioned in the settled community said they would avoid Travellers.

Nationally, 77% of Travellers said they had been discriminated against in the past year, citing gardaí and then bar and hotel staff as those most likely to discriminate. In Munster 86% of respondents said they had experienced discrimination in the previous year, while 45% said they had been bullied at school.

The launch event at Cork’s Triskel Arts Centre heard there were just four sites for Travellers in Cork City and this figure had not changed in 30 years, with accommodation issues linked to mental health concerns.


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