Seven times more likely seems like great odds. But if you’re seven times more likely to take your life then it’s a terrible statistic. It’s little known, but a Traveller man is seven times more likely to take his own life than a member of the settled community; a Traveller woman, five and a half times. The turmoil and trauma of suicide visits directly on more than 80% of the Traveller community (Mary Rose Walker 2008, All Ireland Traveller Health Study 2010)
Last year a group of Travellers working with Exchange House Ireland decided to do something to promote positive mental health in their community. They teamed up with us at turn2me and produced a short film under the supervision of Pat Comer an independent filmmaker. The only remit was they didn’t want it to be a lecture, it had to be something interesting, clever and appealing that young Travellers would watch. They made a film called It Doesn’t Matter – part drama, part testimonials – a wholly fresh and brave piece of storytelling which won the International Award at the Bedford International Film Festival, Virginia this month.
The follow up production ‘John Boy’ is premiered at the 2021 Galway Film Fleadh. It is a 16-minute film similarly produced: a dramatic sequence written and performed by members of the group with some testimonials to really bring the message home. ‘John Boy’ is a prequel to It Doesn’t Matter. It is similarly brave and honest, and all the long hours of work was underpinned by a simple ambition – albeit impossible to assess: that maybe we can save one life.
Tom Mc Donagh, in his debut performance, portrays a young Traveller man, struggling with life and discrimination, yet seemingly unaware of the love and support that surrounds him. The films touch on identity, racism, discrimination, and the impact these issues have on the mental health of the Traveller community today.
Please be aware that the film may contain triggering scenes. If you need more information:
- For professional support information visit www.turn2me.ie
- If you prefer to text, start a conversation by free-texting TURN2ME to 50808
- Get in touch with Exchange House Ireland National Traveller Service by phone on (01) 872 1094 or visit www.exchangehouseireland.ie or contact the National Traveller Mental Health Service.