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Four Traveller teens take own lives in a week

THE Traveller community in Ireland was rocked by four teenage suicides within the past week alone.

A 15-year-old girl died by suicide on Friday and was laid to rest in Limerick city yesterday.

The girl's 17-year-old boy-friend took his own life in Co Tipperary when he learned of her death.

And the families of the teens also had personal experiences with suicide. The girl's brother took his life and two men in the boy's family also died in this way. Their deaths followed two female teen suicides in the last week.

Suicide rates among Travellers are between three and seven times higher than settled population, research has indicated.

Singer Kelly Mongan is now behind a campaign to raise awareness of mental health in her community.

The runner-up in The Voice programme on RTE helped launch a DVD developed by Sligo Traveller Support Group and the HSE.

Kelly said that the recent high number of suicides in the past week – which included three girls and the boyfriend of one - was particularly upsetting.

"That is a really shocking figure. Nobody knows why they did it," she said.

"It could have been discrimination but it could also have been for many other reasons."

Kelly (19) recalled that a distant relative on her mother's side died by suicide.

"I can't say why it happened, but I have heard of two Traveller girls in England that took their lives because of discrimination," she said.

DVD project manager Bernadette Maughan said at the Sligo launch that several social problems have a negative impact on mental health.

"A main contributor to the increased suicide figures is the high levels of prejudice, discrimination and racism experienced by the Traveller community in Ireland," she said.

"We are hoping to bring down the level of prejudice and discrimination and that people will start to see one another as individuals rather than as 'you are the Traveller and I'm settled'.

"The DVD highlights areas within the mental services relevant to most individuals within Irish society."