Home > Irish Travellers and forensic mental health.

Linehan, Sally A and Duffy, Dearbhla M and O'Neill, Helen and O'Neill, Conor and Kennedy, Harry G (2002) Irish Travellers and forensic mental health. Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine, 19, (3), pp. 76-79.

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Objectives: To determine whether Irish Travellers are over-represented amongst transfers from prison to psychiatric hospital. If so, to determine whether this represents an excess over the proportion of Irish Travellers committed to prison.

Method: Irish Travellers admitted to the National Forensic Psychiatry service were identified from a case register over three years 1997-1999. New prison committals were sampled and interviewed as part of the routine committal screening to identify ethnicity.

Results: Irish Travellers accounted for 3.4% of forensic psychiatric admissions compared to 0.38% of the adult population. Travellers transferred from prison to psychiatric hospital had more learning disability and less severe mental illness than other groups, while black and other ethnic minorities had a higher proportion of severe mental illness. Travellers accounted for 6% (95% CI 3-11) of 154 male committals and 4% (95% CI 2-12) of 70 female committals. The estimated annualised prison committal rate was 2.8% (95% CI 2.4-3.3) of all adult male Travellers in Ireland and 1% for female Travellers (95% CI 0.8-1.3). Male Travellers had a relative risk of imprisonment compared to the settled community of 17.4 (95% CI 2.3-131.4), the relative risk for female Travellers was 12.9 (95% CI 1.7-96.7). Imprisoned Travellers had greater rates of drugs and alcohol problems than other prisoners (Relative risk 1.46, 95% CI 1.11-1.90).

Conclusion: There is gross over-representation of Travellers in forensic psychiatric admissions. This reflects the excess of Travellers amongst prison committals.

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