IRISH singer-songwriter Christy Moore has endorsed a new initiative encouraging Traveller men to engage more with health services.
New research has shown that men in the Travelling community have a suicide rate seven times higher than settled men, and live 15 years less on average.
Pavee Point, an organisation committed to Traveller rights, has called for a national strategy to address the low trust in healthcare providers held by Traveller men.
At the launch of Pavee Point's position paper on men's health, Christy Moore urged depressed Traveller men to set aside their distrust for health services and seek help.
“Asking for help takes great courage,” he said, after explaining that he only won his own battle against depression admitting he was “defeated”.
Also speaking at the event, co-director Michael Collins said that every Traveller family in Ireland had been affected by the reluctance of men in their community to access mental health services.
“There wouldn’t be a Traveller family in the country who hasn’t lost someone to suicide. It’s that prevalent. It’s endemic,” he said.
“Our lives are cut shorter simply because we are Traveller men,” added men’s health worker Patrick Reilly.
“It’s clear that we not only need to tackle Traveller men’s health but to tackle it properly. In order to do so we need a Traveller Men’s Health Strategy that includes both mainstreaming and targeted approaches.
“From our work and research in this area we know that almost 40 per cent of Travellers have experienced discrimination in accessing health services and that Travellers have far lower trust in healthcare providers than the settled population.
“Traveller men feel isolated, dis-empowered and frustrated with services. That makes us less likely to engage in the future.”
Earlier this year, calls for specific action on Traveller health were also made by the European Commission in their Assessment of Ireland.
“A mainstreamed approach is sufficient when outcomes are identical for all components of the target groups,” they said. "When evidence shows a clear gap between the situation of Roma and Travellers versus the rest of society, policies should be adjusted and specific measures should also be developed."
Christy Moore sang three songs – Ride On, Go Move Shift and I am Johnny Connors – at the event, which was also attended by fellow Irish singer-songwriter Niall “Bressie” Breslin.
Bressie said that action needed to be taken to get rid of the stigma around mental health in Traveller communities, adding that the statistic of Traveller men’s health were “horrific”.