Suicide is a tragedy that we are constantly working to prevent and also working to give more support to the families affected. Dealing with the current high levels of suicide and deliberate self harm is a priority for this Government. Reach Out the National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention makes a number of recommendations in relation to fast track referrals to community-based mental health services, effective response to deliberate self harm, training, stigma reduction, etc. Consequently, the HSE's National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) has developed a range of initiatives to support people who are suicidal and also supporting their families, friends and peers in recognising and responding appropriately to signs of emotional distress and suicidal thoughts. Area 15 of Reach Out deals with marginalised groups including Travellers.
Suicide within the Traveller community was shown to be a major problem by the findings of the All-Ireland Traveller Health Study which was published in 2010. This study determined that in 2007 the suicide rate among male Travellers was 6.6 times that of the general population while for female Travellers it was shown to be 4.9 times higher than the general population.
There has been a significant amount of work done with Traveller groups, providing information, conducting training and developing resources. The National Traveller Suicide Awareness Project (NTSAP) is a collaboration of Traveller organisations, the National Office for Suicide Prevention and Exchange House. This project is funded by the National Office for Suicide Prevention and has been in operation since 2007 to respond to the issue of Traveller suicide. The project works directly with approx. 500 Travellers per year and indirectly to others through networking at national, regional and local events, and also provides preventative and post suicide supports. The aim is to develop and implement a community development approach to addressing the issue of suicide in the Traveller community by; acting as a resource both to Traveller organisations and suicide related services in terms of raising their awareness on the issue of suicide in the Traveller community; promoting the development of initiatives to support suicide prevention, intervention and interventions after suicide situations, in a co-ordinated manner and, in so doing, to reduce the number of attempted and completed suicides in the Traveller community.
The project aims to reduce the number of Traveller suicides over the next 10 years through the following actions:
- Collate up to date data on Travellers who die by suicide and the services available to Travellers and their uptake;
- Develop prevention, intervention and interventions after suicide initiatives with Travellers using a community development approach and based on the data collated and the experience of the project to date;
- Effect positive policy and social change in the area of Traveller suicide;
- Carry out NTSAPs planned work in a timely, efficient and effective manner.
Traveller men who have in the past been reluctant to engage with services and two male project workers were recruited in September 2011 with the role of working with Traveller men nationally to focus on engaging Traveller men as well as providing ongoing support to groups in developing appropriate responses to address the identified needs. In addition bereavement support and the development of more meaningful relationships with mental health services have been addressed. Overall 14 men’s groups received funding in 2012. Networking and awareness raising were carried out and Traveller men did engage with the services.