Hughie Maughan appeared on last night’s episode of Eating with the Enemy, where he discussed his journey with mental health having survived a suicide attempt when he was 16 years-old.
The Virgin Media show pairs up two people who are “opposites” to have dinner and discuss topics in the hopes of finding a common ground.
Hughie was paired up with Maureen Ward, also from the Travelling community, and they discussed whether traditional Traveller values are still relevant today.
Hughie discussed his experience growing up as a gay traveller and the pressure faced by the community to keep within the traditions.
He said on the show: “If somebody has sex outside of marriage or if somebody is gay or something, it doesn’t mean they don’t respect their parents and it doesn’t mean that they’re any less or more.
“It doesn’t mean that they’re not a traveller. For me growing up was extremely difficult.
“I grew up around so much toxic masculinity that already existed in society but is even worse when you look at ethnic minorities which is why growing up I found it very very hard.
“If I had lived by my parents’ rules and had lived [the way] they thought was right – it was essentially homophobic until they understood and learned more – I’d probably be dead now.
“I attempted suicide when I was 16. You’re seven times more likely to die of suicide as a young traveller man as it is in the rest of society where it’s already the biggest killer of men under 40.
“Do you not attribute a lot of that to how much pressure young travellers feel underneath and how scared they are to come out? How girls are so scared if they ever had sex outside of marriage their life is ruined?”
According to the All Ireland Traveller Health Study 2010, there are around 4,000 Travellers in Ireland who identify as LGBTQ+. However, many struggle with their mental health as they battle against societal discrimination for a place within their communities and self-acceptance.
LGBTQ+ Traveller, Dillon Collins, stated, “Being gay in the Travelling community is OK and needs more support. If not addressed then this is where the suicide thoughts and depression comes into effect, and when we see young lives dying.”
In recent years, there have been various movements to strengthen support services for LGBTQ+ Travellers. Groups such as BeLonG To and LGBT Ireland have been working alongside the Action Group and LGBT Pavee to bolster awareness and inclusivity.
When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at [email protected], or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.
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