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A lack of emotional outlets and education is being blamed for the high rates of suicide among Travellers in Ireland Photo by: Google Images

Suicide in Traveller community at crisis point say supporters

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A lack of emotional outlets and education is being blamed for the high rates of suicide among Travellers in Ireland Photo by: Google Images

The Irish Traveller community is reeling from a double suicide of two teenage sweethearts last week.

15-year-old Katie Faulkner from Limerick and her 17-year-old boyfriend TJ Donoghue from County Tipperary took their own lives just one day apart.

According to the Irish Independent, Faulkner's body was found at the family home at Long Pavement halting site last Sunday. The next day Donoghue's body was found at woodland near his home. The pair were reportedly in a relationship that Faulkner's parents were unaware of. It's believed that Donoghue took his own life in distress at the news of Faulkner's passing.

A Facebook page offered condolences to the relatives of the tragic pair this week, which received hundreds of comments expressing grief at the tragedy.

According to a 2008 study, 40 percent of suicides in the Travelling community follow bereavements, particularly in the case of a loved one's suicide, a statistic that alarms Travellers rights groups.

'What is of major concern is that in 40 per cent of cases where a Traveller took their life following the death of somebody close, that death itself was also a suicide,' author and social worker Mary Rose Walker told the Independent.

'Included here are suicides which very closely followed the news that a relative was seriously ill and may be about to die. The view of the respondent was that the anticipation of the death so greatly disturbed these individuals that they took their own lives.'

In her study Suicide Among the Traveller Community Walker indicated that sixty five percent of Travelers who took their own lives were under 30, as opposed to the thirty four per cent of suicides in the general population under 30.

Samaritans' Regional Director for Ireland Pio Fenton explained that for cultural reasons, members of the Traveller community in Ireland often find it difficult to express their feelings.

'Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Traveller community in Ireland is a very insular and marginalized group who, for cultural reasons, find it difficult to talk about their feelings, particularly with outsiders,' he told the Independent.

'It's important for Traveller people to know that no matter how they're feeling, what they've done or what life may have done to them, Samaritans is there round the clock every single day of the year. All calls are confidential and we don't judge or give advice. We've found that when a person is in crisis, talking to us can help them get through that moment.'

A 2010 study found that the suicide rate among Travellers was six times the national average and accounted for eleven per cent of all Traveler deaths.

'It's very tragic and sad and unfortunately suicide is increasing within the community,' Martin Collins of Pavee Point Travellers' Centre told the Independent. 'We are talking about something here that is at crisis levels and quite clearly we need to be looking at strategies and solutions to address this.'

'Suicide is a very complex issue and there is no simplistic single explanation as to why anybody would take their life,' he said. 'But I do think that it's important that we look at the context in which people find themselves, and when you look at the Traveling community, the context is one of poor educational attainment, high unemployment rates, huge health inequalities, huge issues around discrimination and racism, and there's also lack of self-esteem and confidence in one's identity.'

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