Travellers and youths at most risk of self-harming

By Aideen O'Flaherty

STAFF from the Tallaght Travellers Community Development Project took part in St Patrick’s Mental Health Services (SPMHS) and Pieta’s annual Self-Harm Awareness Conference last week, where it was revealed that Travellers and young people are among those most at risk of self-harming.

At the conference, evidence was shown detailing that members of minority groups, such as the Traveller community, are more vulnerable to self-harming behaviours.

Self Harm Conference compressor

The Self-Harm Awareness Conference in St Patrick’s University Hospital tok place recently

Now in its fifth year, the focus of this year’s Self-Harm Awareness Conference was responding to high-risk groups, such as young people and Travellers, who are at risk of self-harming.

Topics which were explored included the therapeutic use of metaphor when treating young people who self-harm, the assessment and management of patients presenting to emergency departments following self-harm, and actions needed to improve mental health within the Travelling community.

Alan Kavanagh, Men’s Mental Health Outreach Worker with the Tallaght Travellers Community Development Project, said: “Barriers such as social exclusion, racism, discrimination, and poverty are known to contribute to trauma and mental health difficulties, which can underlie behaviours such as self-harm.

“While much research exists on the obstacles faced, and trauma transmitted, in various indigenous groups around the world, such analysis is non-existent from a Traveller perspective.

“It is vital that there is an understanding of what factors have caused trauma in the Traveller community in order to provide effective, culturally-specific treatment and reduce the high prevalence of behaviours such as self-harm.”

In the last six months, Traveller representatives told the Oireachtas of a mental health crisis and unprecedented rates of self-harm within the community.

Anyone who may be affected by the issues raised can contact the Tallaght Traveller Community Development Project on 01 461 0562, Pieta House on 1800 247 247, or Text HELP to 51444.

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