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Providing better support to young Gypsies and Travellers

Research awardData Science

Funding period 2018 - 2019

InstitutionSwansea University

LocationUnited Kingdom

Professors Louise Condon and Ann John want to identify the specific mental health needs of young Gypsies and Travellers, giving health services the tools to provide better, targetted support.

The project

Previous research has found that mental illness is rife in the Gypsy and Traveller community, often linked to poverty, social exclusion and stigma. But because there is no option for people to identify as a Gypsy or Traveller on medical questionnaires, our knowledge of the issues people face and how to improve support for their needs is hugely limited.

Professors Louise Condon and Ann John will be working to transform our understanding – in particular in relation to young people. We know almost half of Gypsies and Travellers are under the age of 15, and in a recent study young Gypsy/Travellers said that discussing mental health issues was ‘shameful’.

Using an innovative data matching technique, Louise and Ann will identify the particular mental health needs of young Gypsies and Travellers. Ultimately, they want to help change attitudes to mental illness in these communities and give health services the tools to provide better support – based on genuine evidence.

The process

Data scientists from Swansea University have developed a technique to match people from Gypsy/Traveller sites with their health records for the first time.

This means Louise and Ann can determine which mental health conditions are commonly experienced by young people living on Traveller sites in Wales under the age of 25 years. They will also find out how often they use health services, if at all.

Louise and Ann will compare their results with a group of young people of the same age, who also live in disadvantaged circumstances, allowing them to identify the specific mental health conditions that young Gypsy/Travellers experience. The study will be supported using the MQ-funded Adolescent Data Platform for Mental Health Research.

The potential

This work will shine a light on the mental health needs of young people from one of the most marginalised communities in the UK.

Louise and Ann’s findings will be shared with mental health services, paving the way for vital improvements in how mental health services engage with – and care for – young people in Gypsy/Traveller communities.

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