“Hearing the Unheard” theme of Traveller Mental Health Conference

14th October 2022
HSE Media Release

A Community Healthcare Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan, Cavan Traveller Mental Health conference focusing on “Hearing the Unheard” took place in Sligo this week. This event was launched by Senator Eileen Flynn, and organised by the Regional Traveller Mental Health Forum.

The forum is a collaboration of organisations that work in the area of Traveller health including Mental Health consisting of the Cavan Traveller Primary Health Care Team, the Donegal Traveller Project, the Sligo Traveller support group and the Leitrim Traveller primary health care team in collaboration with HSE’s peer Mental Health Support Worker, Julie Duke, the Mental Health coordinator for ethnic minorities social inclusion, Tracey Roarty and the HSE’s regional Mental Health Service Coordinator for Travellers, Ita Madden.

The aim of the conference was to create an opportunity for services and members of the Traveller community to come together to talk about some of the experiences of mental health challenges and to create a safe space to 'hear the unheard’.

The ‘unheard’ provided an insight into the triggers of poor mental health including domestic abuse, discrimination, exclusion, disempowerment from the community and the wider society and many other issues. The event enabled service providers to gain a deeper understanding of the complexities that must be considered to address the mental health pandemic as 11% of all Traveller deaths are a result of suicide.

The conference highlighted the good work taking place around the region in the different Traveller projects focusing on mental health support as each Traveller organisation provided an information table and people were welcome to come along and talk to the Traveller Primary Health care workers engaged in the work across Cavan, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.

The organising committee agreed it was important to have a conversation about what works well and what are the challenges both in the Traveller community and in service provision. The first part of the conference provided an overview of some of the services on offer including Social Prescribing, Mental Health and Well Being recovery colleges and training and development opportunities. The latter part focused on four key questions namely;

  • What do you feel is not being said and why?
  • What challenges affect Traveller's mental health?
  • What needs to happen to improve access to mental health services and how can Traveller Primary Health care projects work together to improve mental health outcomes?

Ita Madden, the HSE’s Regional Mental Health coordinator for Travellers said “The group wanted to create a safe space and invite both service providers and community health care workers to explore some of the triggers and ‘unheard’ issues in the community and consider what we can all do collectively to improve Traveller mental health into the future.”

Senator Eileen Flynn in launching the conference said “everyone in the room at some point will have struggled with their mental health and it is great to see regions working together and having this regional conference is a step in the right direction to tackling the problem.” She went on to say it is about thinking globally and working locally highlighting the importance of minding each other. She opened the conference by saying “society is tough on us and we should not be tough on each other”.

Last updated on: 14 / 10 / 2022