'I didn’t think I'd make it to my 15th birthday but now I am studying law'

'I Didn’t Think I'd Make It To My 15Th Birthday But Now I Am Studying Law'
Latisha McCrudden pictured during a visit to Leinster House.
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Richard Canny

Latisha McCrudden’s long held dream of becoming a solicitor took a major step forward this year when she commenced a law degree at the University of Galway.

Attaining the Leaving Cert points required for law is one of many accomplishments on a long list for the young Traveller woman from the village of Lisacul in Co Roscommon.


Aged 19, Latisha has already compiled a range of distinctions, among them a Gaisce President’s award, a Pope John Paul II award and a Traveller Pride education award.

Recently, she was the winner in the ‘Special Achievement’ category at the local Garda Youth Awards, honoured as a “young person who has defied all the odds and whose commitment deserves recognition”.

Latisha was an award winner at this year's local Garda Youth Awards. She is pictured at the ceremony with Cathaoirleach of Roscommon County Council, Cllr John Keogh.

Latisha has also worked as a mentor with Jigsaw as a mental health ambassador for young people, has spoken in the Oireachtas as a climate youth ambassador and competed in the BT Young Scientist Exhibition and SciFest.


Very proud to be called an activist, she has worked with a number of different organisations such as the Irish Traveller Movement, the National Women’s Council and the National Youth Assembly. It’s no surprise either that she hopes to enter the political arena in the near future.

Latisha with her award from Scifest,

Latisha has also excelled in sport, her passion for karate since the age of four has seen her compete nationally and internationally. Along with coaching at her club, she is a first Dan blackbelt and is going for her second Dan black belt this year.

Clearly, it’s a very impressive CV at such a young age, but the achievements become even more special given that she has had to deal with significant mental health difficulties, going back to when she was a teenager.


“When I was 14, there was a time I thought I wouldn’t make it to my 15th birthday. Well, to be making it to my 19th birthday now, every birthday feels that extra bit significant to me because I didn’t think that, you know, I was going to make it past my 14th birthday,” said Latisha.

Hoping that her story might help others, she is very happy to speak openly about that very difficult period in her life which led to very dark thoughts.

“I was always in flight or fight mode. The world was crashing around me at that time. I had depression. It was like a constant brick on top of my head. My head and eyes always felt heavy.

“I had go to bed early to sleep away the problems – I was closing the problems that had to be dealt with…it was something that was building and then one evening, I said to myself: ‘What’s the point of life’. Yeah, that was definitely something that came into my head, and it was scary at the time.


“Since my childhood, I always had this big vision of what my future could be and I always knew I wanted to be someone in life. It was kind of scary. It was the first time that I didn’t have hope for my future. That’s when I said I would go to Pieta House,” recalled Latisha.

Her sessions with Pieta provided a vital opportunity for her to open up about her struggles.

“Well, it was the first time, I think in my entire life that I talked about things. Pieta House gave me different ways to cope. Before that, if there was something wrong, you just couldn’t talk about it because that’s how you were brought up.”

In the last four years, there’s definitely been one or two times again where you can feel it coming back


Despite all her achievements and now being in a very good place, she readily admitted that her mental health journey was far from finished. “In the last four years, there’s definitely been one or two times again where you can feel it coming back, and I would never want to get as bad as I was when I was 14.

“And that’s why I’m always very open talking about mental health because it was kept quiet for so long and there shouldn’t be a stigma. You shouldn’t be ashamed that you have mental health struggles, whether you’re male or female.”

Latisha has competed nationally and internationally in karate.

She also didn’t feel ashamed to return to Pieta House in 2021 for help when she started to develop an eating disorder. Her passion for karate has also kept her going through tough times. “Going to training, even during my darkest times, I would have a slight bit of relief in the evenings after doing training because karate brings me so much joy.”

Latisha is proud to say that her mother Susan and grandparents continue to be a great source of strength for her, and she also glows about her 9- year-old sister Tulisha, ‘my little guardian angel’.

As a young Traveller, she is very aware of the very high suicide rates within her community - suicide is the cause of 11 per cent of all Traveller deaths – and she believes social media is a contributory factor in the levels of bullying that are taking place online and in school.

Given her willingness to speak candidly about all of these issues, does she see herself as an ambassador for young Travellers when it comes to promoting good mental health? “If I could help one person I’d be happy. Some of my close friends that are in the Traveller community do come to me and say ‘it’s so good to see you being able to talk about that’ and that is important.

When she was 10 years of age, she had what can only be described as an epiphany. A benign tumour “the size of a tennis ball” was removed from her skull and she was simultaneously diagnosed with Fibrous Dysplasia, a disease that weakens and erodes the bones in the body.

“I knew from then that my life could have changed in more ways than one, and I must have had a purpose on this earth. Although only ten at the time I took that as my second chance at life. I was going to make sure to try my hardest at life and grind and achieve my dreams.”

Latisha speaking in the Oireachtas as a climate youth ambassador.
Latisha speaking in the Oireachtas as a climate youth ambassador.

Even at such a young age, her journey is already illuminated with many achievements and awards, with clearly much more to come, not least a career in law as she begins her university studies.

“I’m classed as an activist now because I’m so vocal on topics that are important to me. I always live by the quote of the late Martin Luther King: ‘Our life begins to end, the day we become silent about things that matter’.

“I have a vision of myself of where I want to be, and every day I work to be that woman I want to be. Every day is a journey, every day is progression,” said Latisha who is a beacon of hope for anyone struggling with their mental health.

This article was originally published in the Roscommon Herald by its deputy editor Richard Canny. Last Tuesday Richard won the national award in the Local Print and Online category of the Headline Mental Health Awards for this story.

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