Dáil debates

Tuesday, 14 November 2006

8:00 am

Tim O'Malley (Limerick East, Progressive Democrats)

Last Friday, I launched the research report Moving Beyond Coping, which provides an insight into the experiences and needs of Travellers in dealing with the experience of suicide. The report outlined the high rate of suicide among Travellers in west Dublin. This research data is a welcome resource for organisations working with Travellers in the west Dublin area. It will assist Travellers in the area in making more informed decisions to address issues on their own behalf and in partnership with the relevant service providers and agencies.

Reach Out, the national strategy for action on suicide prevention, was launched in September 2005. A fundamental aim of this strategy is to prevent suicidal behaviour, including deliberate self-harm, and to increase awareness of the importance of good mental health among the general population. Ongoing quality, multi-disciplinary research will be an essential strand of this strategy. These findings will be of greatest value where they can inform and stimulate action and service development.

As highlighted in the Catholic Youth Services report, the National Office for Suicide Prevention has agreed a three year funded project with traveller groups and Crosscare. The project will employ a staff member to develop training packages and materials suitable for this community. The National Office for Suicide Prevention is also working with Pavee Point, local Traveller groups and the parish of the Travellers to determine the best way of addressing suicide and deliberate self-harm among the Traveller community.

The regional suicide prevention resource officers of the Health Service Executive respond to suicides among the Traveller community, organising bereavement support services and working with community leaders and local clergy in providing support in the immediate aftermath of a death by suicide.

The Reach Out strategy recognises that certain groups are particularly vulnerable to suicide. A counselling service is also being developed in Galway as a partnership initiative between the Galway Traveller Movement, the adult survivors of abuse counselling service and the HSE resource officer. However, in general, the uptake of mental health services among Travellers is believed to be low and where they are availed of, various problems are encountered which may be due to a combination of inappropriate provision and a lack of awareness or confidence among Travellers regarding the services.

The co-ordinated efforts of the National Office for Suicide Prevention, the HSE and voluntary agencies are required to address the mental health problems experienced by the Traveller community.

In conclusion, I assure the Deputy that the Government is committed to the implementation of suicide prevention initiatives in the Traveller community and the further development of our mental health services to prevent and reduce further tragic loss of life.


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