Lived experience of vulnerability from a Gypsy Roma Traveller perspective

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Abstract

Aims and objectives.

To describe the lived experience of vulnerability of individuals within a Gypsy Roma Travelling community.

Background.

People experience vulnerability whenever their health or usual functioning is compromised. This may increase when they enter unfamiliar surroundings, situations or relationships. One's experience of vulnerability can also be heightened through interactions between the individual and the society within which they live. Gypsy Roma Travellers are often identified as vulnerable owing to increased morbidity and mortality as well as their marginalised status within society. Yet little is known of the experiences of vulnerability by the individuals themselves. Without their stories and experiences, health professionals cannot effectively develop services that meet their needs.

Design.

This descriptive phenomenological study sought to explore the lived experience of vulnerability in a Gypsy Roma Travelling community.

Methods.

Seventeen Gypsy Roma Travellers were interviewed in 2013–2014 about their experiences of feeling vulnerable. This paper reports on the findings from the depth phase in which 13 individuals were interviewed. The interviews were conducted and analysed using Giorgi's descriptive phenomenological approach.

Findings.

Six constituents of the phenomenon of vulnerability were identified as feeling: defined and homogenised as a group; pressurised to conform to live in a particular way; split in one's identity; a loss of one's heritage; discriminated, persecuted and threatened; and powerlessness.

Relevance to clinical practice.

There is a wealth of evidence that Gypsy Roma Travellers experience high levels of morbidity and mortality, which has led to them being identified by health professionals and policy makers as a vulnerable community. Exploring their lived experience of vulnerability presents a different perspective regarding this concept and can help explain why they may experience poorer levels of physical and mental health.

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