Animations Launched To Help Support Traveller Families And Their Mental Health

Two ground-breaking animations have been launched today which will help to support and inform issues with Traveller families mental health.

The two animations were launched at an event today that was organised by the Cork/Kerry Traveller Youth Mental Health working group. The animations will now be used to help support Traveller families in accessing services. In the two animations mothers discuss the journeys they undertook with their sons through primary and secondary school.

The working group comprised of: Traveller representative groups: Cork Traveller Women’s Network, East Cork Travellers, Kerry Travellers Health Development Project, Travellers of North Cork, Traveller Visibility Group (TVG), West Cork Travellers Centre; and Healthy Minds, the Intellectual Disability Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services and the office of Mental Health Services Coordinator for Travellers, HSE Cork/ Kerry Community Healthcare.

Nora Cash, Traveller Community Health Worker, TVG, Cork said: “There are so many mental health difficulties in the Traveller community. A system that understands and appreciates this is required. Inroads are being made which is really reassuring but we need more proactive services on the ground dedicated to Travellers to help us support our community, young and old, with mental health. Traveller friendly ways are key.”

Eileen Burke, TVG Cork said: “Our Traveller children are falling through the cracks. It is vitally important that all children get intervention at the earliest of stages before they become young adults.”

In the animation one mother describes how the primary school years were difficult as her son could be restless and disruptive in class.

She describes: “I remember how in 6th class he was given a golden achievement award for doing well on a surfboard on an end of school trip. This was the first award he ever received in school. I think he was delighted on the inside but by then he had developed a hard skin for himself and he threw his award in the bin.”

The animations advise parents to engage with various service providers, and also raise awareness with service providers around the challenges experienced by Travellers, so appropriate help for children who may be experiencing difficulties is sought and provided. They also say parents should have the confidence to ask questions.

“My advice to any Traveller parents rearing children with learning, behavioural or mental health difficulties is to seek help for your child and just as important seek help for yourself. If we don’t get help for ourselves we risk crumbling and then we cannot properly support the child we love,” said one of the mothers in the animations.

The event also saw the launch of the “Stages of Intervention for Young People.” resource, which is a summary document designed by and for Traveller projects. The purpose of these resources is to fundamentally support and empower Traveller parents to access help for their young people who may be experiencing mental health difficulties.

Research shows that Travellers experience poorer mental health and higher suicide rates. Research also shows that the Traveller community is very young and this event will look at how there is a need to intervene at earlier stages to promote recovery and break the cycle of poor mental health.

Ciara Ridge MHS Coordinator for Travellers with the HSE said: “This is a targeted project to support an intervention for young Travellers in the community who are at risk and vulnerable in terms of their mental health and well-being. The aim of it is to support Traveller parents with the most appropriate information, and to build their understanding around the steps they can take when accessing supports for their children and adolescents, in a culturally sensitive way.

“Through the two animations it details some experiences of Traveller families in working to support their young people, raises awareness of what this is like for Travellers and seeks to empower Traveller families in accessing supports, whilst informing about service providers of Traveller families’ needs. The Stages of Intervention for Young People summary document lists all relevant information about pathways of support to access for young people’s mental health in a central, easy to access way, for use by Traveller organisations in their work to help facilitate and respond to Traveller families’ mental health needs.”

Following the launch, the next steps will be for the group to plan how these resources can be embedded within key services and programmes to provide the most culturally appropriate care to Traveller service users.

Speakers at the event included Minister for Older People and Mental Health, Mary Butler TD and Senator Eileen Flynn. Also speaking at the event was Breda O’Donoghue, Director of Advocacy Traveller Visibility Group, Cork, Dr Michelle Mulcahy, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, and Debby Murphy, Clinical Nurse Specialist, Intellectual Disability CAMHS, HSE Mental Health Services, Cork/ Kerry.

The event was called: Supporting Traveller Families’ Mental Health. It was funded by the Traveller Health Unit, HSE Cork/ Kerry Community Healthcare and the National Office for Suicide Prevention through Connecting for Life.


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