Limerick launch for film on Travellers’ mental health issues

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Crystal Ward at the launch of 'Our Story'

“THEY say it’s one in seven but in my own family, there have been two people who died by suicide. It’s heartbreaking to think that a person can see no other way out.

Crystal Ward (23) is one of the people who took part in ‘Our Story’, a hard-hitting and evocative short film that addresses the prejudice faced by young people from the Traveller Community, its effects on their mental health and how they are trying to overcome it.

The film was launched last week by Limerick Youth Service.

Crystal told the Limerick Post that suicide is statistically more likely to affect Traveller families.

“My grandmother had 18 children. Between them, they had 60 children. With those numbers there’s much more chance of a family long someone,” she said. “But no-one should have to bury their child.”

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The attitudes of people in other walks of life is a stress that can add to mental health problems among Travellers, she says.

“The anxiety of walking into a room, knowing that some people will automatically think something about you when they don’t even know you is very stressful.

“For parents to know that their kids are going to be sneered at – that’s dreadful.”

Crystal says she believes that talking abut mental health and how to cope when things are not going well is vital and that initiatives such as the CHIME mental health recovery programme can be a huge support.

She said that with the male role in the Travelling community still being the traditional role of bread winner and family supporter, stress can be particularly hard or men.

“They’re seen as big, strong men who look after their families so it’s very hard for them to admit to being down or having trouble. Women can talk to each other but men are more inclined to go out with the horses or go for a swim with other men and push it aside. Mental health issues have to be talked about if people are going to get help.”

Crystal says she hopes that the film, which is part of a Traveller Youth Mental Health Resource Pack, “will provide hope and encouragement for those who are struggling with their mental health.”

As part of the project, almost 100 young members of the Travelling Community took part in consultations across Limerick, Clare and North Tipperary, sharing their experiences of their mental health, from speaking about it among their peer group and family to assessing support and barriers they face.

The short film will form has also been released via www.limerickyouthservice.comand across LYS’ respective social media channels. Five smaller versions of the short film focusing the CHIME themes, has also been released.