NUI Galway’s Mincéirs Whiden Society has unveiled a plaque in the shadow of Galway Cathedral to raise awareness of mental health for Irish Travellers.
This event follows the planting of a Tree of Life at the spot on 8 October last year to mark the first National Traveller Mental Health Day.
NUI Galway Master’s student and Traveller man Jason Sherlock said that they gathered for Irish Traveller mental health and for the mental health of all people.
“We are making a stand to show that it is okay to talk about mental health,” he said.
“It is very important we gather as a community to challenge negative mental health. By our actions we are showing that it is okay to talk about our feelings, especially when we are feeling down.”
The plaque is placed at the base of the Tree of Life on a green space overlooked by Galway Cathedral.
The event involved a special blessing by Fr Thomas McCarthy, who works in NUI Galway’s Chaplaincy, a recitation of the Rosary and a prayer service in memory of those who have died by suicide and others who suffer from mental ill health.
Speaking at the event, which was attended by a number of politicians, Mayor Colette Connolly, said: “Mental Health is a very significant issue within the Traveller Community, and I myself have worked with the Traveller Community for over 20 years and this issue is something that has gone under the radar.
“It is great the issue is being highlighted and the devastation that wreaks havoc, not only on the individual family, but also in the wider community.”
Deputy Mayor of Galway City Councillor Martina O’Connor also addressed the event, saying that sadly the statistics show the Traveller suicide rate is very high in Ireland.
“The recent report of standards of living, employment, education, health and life expectancy make for stark reading, but not surprising, unfortunately, for those who are Traveller or their friends and advocates,” she said.
“So much work has to be done to do better, so that another generation of Traveller children do not have to live and grow up as these statistics.
“These statistics are people – men, women and children – living in institutional racism, because that is the only name for systems in a country which keep a people from achieving and living the life they wish and having extra hurdles to overcome at each turn of life.”
Anne Marie Ward, the current chairperson of the Mincéirs Whiden Society and the newly elected Ethnic Minorities Officer of NUI Galway Students’ Union, said: “We have family and friends who love us.
“You do not have to wait until your mental health is so bad that you are at breaking point before you feel like you have to talk.
“It is always better, and when I say better, I mean better for yourself, that you talk about your problems when they arise, as it is easier for you to deal it when they are not built up.”
The event was attended by members of the Mincéirs Whiden Society including Chairperson Anne Maree Ward; Vice-Chairperson, Anna Keane; Secretary Jason Sherlock; and Public Relations Officer, Emma Ward; along with NUI Galway’s Societies Officer Ríona Hughes and Societies Safety Officer Mike O’Halloran.
Also at the event were Mayor Galway City Cllr Colette Connolly, Deputy Mayor Cllr Martina O’Connor, Galway West TD Catherine Connolly, Senator Pauline O’Reilly, Cllr Owen Hanley, and Cllr Alastair McKinstry.
NUI Galway’s Mincéirs Whiden Society thanked staff in Galway City Council who made it possible to plant a Tree of Life and hold the event to raise awareness of Traveller mental health.