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Racism, discrimination and homelessness in Travelling community main contributors affecting mental health

Upload: 30 members of the Travelling community have died by suicide this year.

The Irish Travel'er Movement says the high number of deaths highlights the need for more resources to tackle the mental health crisis in the community.

An Oireachtas Committee has heard that racism, discrimination and homelessness are the main contributors that affect mental health and well being of Travellers.

Fine Gael TD Marcella Corcoran Kennedy wants the issue tackled in the classroom.

"I just wonder if we should be looking at some form of education program for primary schools," said Ms Corcoran Kennedy.

"Where youngsters are taught that minorities are all human beings and we're all the same in the end - we have to get up in the morning, brush our hair, wash our faces and all the rest of it. And try and go to school.

"If there was something like that - if that could form part of the national strategy that you're talking about."

Earlier: Study: Suicide rates up to seven times higher among Travellers than in general population

Seven times more Traveller men and six times more Traveller women commit suicide compared to the general population, according to figures from the National Traveller Mental Health Network.

The numbers are the basis for discussion at an Oireachtas Committee meeting later.

Representatives from five Traveller advocate groups will appear before TDs and Senators to highlight their plight as part of Mental Health Awareness Week.

Chair of today's committee, Senator Colette Kelleher, said mental illness is a massive issue in the Traveller community:

Senator Kelleher said: "82% of people who were surveyed in a study done by Behaviour and Attitudes last year said they were directly affected by suicide.

"The small community, it's only 40,000 people, it's the same size as the population of a town the size of Swords. So when you have that weight of mental unhealth among you, the affect is huge."