Limerick Suicide Watch has intervened in over 200 cases
A group which patrols its native city on voluntary suicide watches is to release a mental health app.
Since it formed two years ago, Limerick Suicide Watch has clocked up 4,000 hours patrolling the River Shannon, helping people in distress. It has also intervened in over 200 cases where people were contemplating taking their own lives.
The app, to be launched on September 28, will contain a mapped route to the nearest mental health services, contact numbers, as well as an advice bulletin board.
There is a waiting list to join Limerick Suicide Watch which has 67 members and is aiming to expand to 80. The work is tough and rewarding, but not for the fainthearted, say the volunteers.
“We are getting the word out there, and people are starting to talk about it and they didn’t before, so if people talk about it, it’s going in the right direction,” said chairman Colm O’Byrne.
Mr O’Byrne got involved because he wanted to “contribute to” and “protect” his community. “I used to row a lot in the river and I’d see the [rescue] helicopter there quite often. Unfortunately, from time to time we used to see [bodies] being pulled out of the river.”
The group’s PRO Lucy O’Hara says the group meet people in distress “from all walks of life” and who are in a certain state of mind for a variety of reasons, including, employment, family, financial pressures, alcohol and drugs. Bringing someone back from the brink is a high point of the work of the volunteers. However, there have also been bad days.
“We’ve had over 200 interventions, so that’s over 200 families that still have their loved ones,” said volunteer Yvonne Cook.
Becoming emotional, as she recalled a tragic end to one of their recent patrols, she said: “We had somebody that we did save twice, a while back, and two years later she [died by her own hand]. “The family were very thankful and they asked us to go to the funeral. They were grateful they had got an extra two years with her,” she said.
Acknowledging the work “becomes very personal”, Mr O’Byrne said. “We meet people who are upset and we are trying to console them. And, then their families are called, and we see that too. We are not untouched by it. We have councillors and welfare officers in the group,” he said,
The group patrols the river four nights a week but plans to expand to seven nights a week. According to Mr Byrne, prevention is one side of what they do.
However, just as important is raising awareness.
Ms O’Hara, meanwhile, said: “We always meet people [in distress] who say to us they don’t know where to go for help. Ìt was an ongoing problem, so we educated ourselves on the different services available and we have put them into one app. It’s connected to Google maps, so it gives the location of the nearest available service and allows someone to send an email or phone.”
The app will be available to download from the Limerick Suicide Watch website (www. limerick sui ci dew atch.ie) from September 28 in St Mary’s Cathedral.
“It could also help people who are just having a bad day, and help them realise that it is just a bad day they are having,” said Mr O’Byrne.