Ita Madden shares in Julie’s joy.

Graduation delight for first Traveller mental health worker

Julie Duke McDonagh has many firsts in her life; the first of her family to go to college despite having to leave formal education at 14 and the first Traveller peer mental health support worker employed by the HSE mental health services.

She recently graduated from DCU after studying peer mental health training and now works in the mental health services in Cavan and Monaghan.

Ita Madden, Regional Mental Health Service Coordinator and Julie's mentor says she was “so proud” to see Julie graduating from DCU, noting how far Julie had come since first attending training she had organised back in 2016.

Julie encourages young people to seek help or advice if they need it, as they don't know what life might throw at them and sometimes feel the challenges they are facing are “normal”. She said Travellers in particular should not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.

“Sometimes Travellers think asking for help can bring other problems to your door; people start judging you and thinking you are not fit to be a mother or father, a brother or sister or even a friend which is so wrong but is often the reason we don’t reach out.

“During my training, I learned that so many people, including professionals, live very normal fulfilled lives even though they may suffer from mental health challenges, and I want to share this learning with my community.”

Julie notes that with the right support and help, “people can mind their mental health and live with mental illnesses like chronic anxiety, depression, panic attacks, schizophrenia and most other mental health illness. It's about learning to ask for help, take the advice, mind ourselves and be aware of we need to do to stay in a good place in our life”.