I’m a traveller and I’ve lost TWENTY EIGHT members of my family to suicide – I had to tell 4 kids their mum was dead

A HEARTBROKEN traveller has lost almost thirty members of her family to her suicide and is calling for more help.

Mags Casey has lost 28 family members in the last ten years after her sister-in-law died in January 2012.

The campaigner is the chair of the Irish Travellers National Mental Health Network, which has found that only three per cent of travellers live past 65. 

After the death of her sister-in-law, her brother took his own life two years later as he never recovered from the grief. 

She told the BBC: "The first suicide in our family, I thought the world ended.

"I didn't know how to sit with four children and tell them your mother's dead, your mother's gone.


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"The devastating effects it has on a family – addiction, family breakdown, a spiral of grief, young people not knowing how to deal with that grief.

"We're proud and we're dignified people. We have solutions and we want you to listen to us.

“We aren't in it for money. We're in it to stay alive and keep our young kids alive."

Research carried out by the European Union shows that 11 per cent of treavllers die by suicide and life expectancy is up to 15 years shorter than the wider population.

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Rose Marie Maughan works with the Irish Travellers Movement, a national network of over 40 organisations.

She said: "Our suicide rate is seven times higher than non-travellers.

"Only 3% of us live past the age of 65 and 80% of us are unemployed.

"If that was any other community in Ireland, there would be international attention."

David Friel, 24, is the first traveller in the north-west of Ireland to get a masters degree, with only one per cent reaching third-level education. 

He added: "It's trying to pass as a member of the settled population.

"So, you're not being your true authentic self. That mentally is very, very difficult.

"You're living two lives, and no-one can maintain that. The traditional means of employment have been obliterated – tinsmithing, or hawking, or gathering whelks or scrap.

"It is totally embedded in Irish society to accept racism against Travellers.

"If we look at the media, if we look at the gardaí , we look at teachers, we look at politics – we're not represented.”

Irish Travellers claim that their culture is being eroded, and activists believe that laws have forced them to be part of the “settled” population.


EVERY 90 minutes in the UK a life is lost to suicide.

It doesn't discriminate, touching the lives of people in every corner of society – from the homeless and unemployed to builders and doctors, reality stars and footballers.

It's the biggest killer of people under the age of 35, more deadly than cancer and car crashes.

Yet it's rarely spoken of, a taboo that threatens to continue its deadly rampage unless we all stop and take notice, now.

That is why The Sun launched the You're Not Alone campaign.

The aim is that by sharing practical advice, raising awareness and breaking down the barriers people face when talking about their mental health, we can all do our bit to help save lives.

Let's all vow to ask for help when we need it, and listen out for others… You're Not Alone.

If you, or anyone you know, needs help dealing with mental health problems, the following organisations provide support:

  • CALM, www.thecalmzone.net, 0800 585 858
  • Heads Together, www.headstogether.org.uk
  • Mind, www.mind.org.uk, 0300 123 3393
  • Papyrus, www.papyrus-uk.org, 0800 068 41 41
  • Samaritans, www.samaritans.org, 116 123

They have been forced to abandon their traditions like living in caravans, keeping horses and specialist trades.

Prof Verene Shepherd, chair of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, published a report in 2019 which found that travellers are ten times more likely to be discriminated against while seeking work. 

He said:  "Travellers are more than 22 times more likely than white Irish to experience discrimination in shops, pubs and restaurants."

The Irish government says that they have a range of policies to encourage the inclusion of travellers. 

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But campaigners say they need more action and support to address the discrimination creating a mental health crisis in their community.

Specific spending on Traveller mental health is £207,013 a year, and £9.9m went towards Traveller accommodation in 2021.

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