A qualitative study of the perceptions of mental health among the Traveller community in Ireland

  • Villani J
  • Barry M
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Abstract

Irish Travellers are a minority ethnic group who experience a high prevalence of mental health problems and a rate of suicide six times higher compared to the general Irish population. This study explores Travellers' perceptions of mental health and its determinants. It also identifies the most relevant factors for promoting positive mental health and wellbeing among this socially excluded group. A descriptive qualitative approach was employed to explore participants' perceptions of mental health and mental health needs. Four focus groups were conducted with a total of 25 adult members of the Travelling community. Inductive thematic analysis was undertaken to identify and interpret the main themes emerging from the participants' responses. Travellers conceptualize mental health mostly in negative terms and showed a lack of awareness of the concept of positive mental health. Travellers showed a strong awareness of the social determinants of mental health identifying employment, better education, suitable accommodation, a reduction of discrimination and improved trust and social cohesion as important determinants that need to be addressed to improve their mental health status. The centrality of cultural identity and social-emotional skills emerged as key factors in promoting positive mental health among Travellers. The findings suggest that Travellers' mental health is multidimensional and requires a socio-ecological approach that addresses the wider determinants of health. Community mental health promotion initiatives should focus on reducing discrimination, enhancing social and emotional wellbeing and self-esteem, improvement of living conditions, reduced mental health stigma, and the promotion of Traveller culture and positive self-identity.

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Villani, J., & Barry, M. M. (2021). A qualitative study of the perceptions of mental health among the Traveller community in Ireland. Health Promotion International, 36(5), 1450–1462. https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/daab009

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