Hate targeted at Gypsy, Traveller and Roma linked to rise in suicides – report

Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities are experiencing hate incidents on an almost daily basis, while mental health issues and suicide are leading to an “epidemic of needless deaths”, a government-funded report has found.

One Traveller told researchers that her family had experienced four suicides within 18 months, the latest involving her sister-in-law, who left three young children.

The “Hate: As Regular As Rain” pilot study, carried out between December 2019 and July 2020 and seen by the Guardian, found a correlation between hate incidents – many of them online – and poor mental health, suicides and attempted suicides.

Prof Margaret Greenfields and Dr Carol Rogers from Buckinghamshire New University, who carried out the study, called for public authorities to halt what they called the “epidemic of needless deaths”.

Support workers revealed that they were aware of 131 suicide attempts over a five-year period ending in 2020, according to the research, which was funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and commissioned by the Gypsy, Traveller and Roma (GTR) organisation GATE Herts.

A large proportion of support workers who took part in the study said that over 90% of clients who had killed themselves or attempted suicide had previously experienced hate incidents. Community respondents said hate incidents included social media abuse (87%), bullying of family members (78%) and racial hatred following media reports (82%).

The report said it could not “clearly establish causation between experiences of hate crime/speech and suicide or parasuicide … [but] respondents have stressed the corrosive effect on mental health and wellbeing of being subject to hate speech and discrimination”.

The 25 respondents who lost relatives to suicide had experienced multiple bereavements, citing 62 examples of family members who had died by suicide over five years, with many experiencing between two and five deaths. Nearly two-thirds of 18-30-year-olds reported at least one suicide in their families.

GATE Herts successfully argued for government funding for the study after its chief executive, Josie O’Driscoll, heard reports of a spike in young people dying by or attempting suicide during 2019.

She said: “One young person told us: ‘I’ve had enough, I can’t take it any more.’ Everywhere he turned he felt he faced prejudice … A big part of Traveller life is attending funerals. By the time you get over one trauma, you are grieving for the next person.”

Greenfields said she was shocked by the “sheer number of families who had experienced multiple bereavement through suicide”, adding: “It is unsurprising, albeit tragic, that mental health difficulties and suicide rates are so high among the communities.”

A 30-year-old Traveller, who preferred not to be named, told of how her family experienced four suicides in an 18-month period. Her late sister-in-law’s oldest child, who was five, found her mother dying, while the Traveller’s son had been bullied at school and threatened to kill himself.

The report suggests a possible correlation between TV shows and hate speech, with reported increases in incidents following programmes such as My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding on Channel 4.

A spike in cases submitted to the Report Racism GRT hate crime project followed the broadcast of the same channel’s Dispatches programme, The Truth About Traveller Crime, in April 2020, with 45 cases that month and a total of 92 additional reported cases of hate crime/speech between February and May 2020.

An interviewee cited the case of one young Traveller who harmed himself after watching the programme, saying: “He just didn’t want to live any more.” O’Driscoll said: “It’s not just journalists writing, it’s the pile-on after,” referring to negative responses and language on social media after broadcasts.

A Channel 4 spokesman said: “The Truth About Traveller Crime was a careful and measured piece of reporting on an issue of considerable public interest. We condemn any form of racism.”

Communities minister Lord Greenhalgh said: “This study will play an important role as the government continues to address the disparities faced by GRT communities and we will consider its findings in full.”

• In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or by emailing jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is at 800-273-8255. You can also text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis text line counsellor. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org


Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/10/hate-targeted-at-gypsy-traveller-and-roma-linked-to-rise-in-suicides-report


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