An el­derly man had his back turned to us but the minute we asked if he was OK, he broke down in tears. We were the first peo­ple he had spo­ken to in six weeks. He was very lonely. He had no­body”

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

Four nights a week a group of vol­un­teers as­sem­ble at Lim­er­ick City’s Docker’s Mon­u­ment, a sculp­ture that cel­e­brates the ca­ma­raderie that ex­isted be­tween men who earned their liv­ing by might. Don­ning per­sonal flota­tion bags and wa­ter­proof jack­ets and armed with binoc­u­lars and com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment, they be­gin their evening’s work. Th­ese vol­un­teers rely heav­ily on one an­other and their ca­ma­raderie has seen them through many tough nights.

They never know what a night will bring but the rea­son they’re out in all weath­ers is to save lives; to in­ter­vene and stop some­one tak­ing their own life.

Lim­er­ick Sui­cide Watch was set up in May 2016, a year when pro­vi­sional fig­ures es­ti­mated there were 400 deaths in Ire­land by sui­cide. Over the last two years they’ve had 180 in­ter­ven­tions. All vol­un­teers have com­pleted sui­cide in­ter­ven­tion skills train­ing pro­vided by the HSE. The city’s sui­cide watch vol­un­teers work in teams of three, with eight to ten vol­un­teers out on Mon­day, Tues­day, Thurs­day and Satur­day nights. Often they walk 10k a night along the Shannon River or cy­cle 20k if they’re on bikes.

Thirty-two-year-old Lucy O’Hara would often no­tice the res­cue he­li­copter from Valen­tia Is­land over­head and won­der about what hap­pened to the per­son they were called out to help. “I wanted to do some­thing to help. I would have known fam­i­lies af­fected by sui­cide my­self. Our goal is to help as many peo­ple as we can and save fam­i­lies from los­ing some­one they love,” says Lucy.

In some cases when they’re on pa­trol, peo­ple will come up to them just to have a chat. In other cases team mem­bers ob­serve some­one who is dis­play­ing be­hav­iour that means they may need help.

“You know by their de­meanour, by how they are re­act­ing to things. This work teaches you how to talk to some­one. When we meet some­one we au­to­mat­i­cally say ‘how are you?’ Some peo­ple may not re­act. The hard­est thing for us is to ask a per­son ‘are you sui­ci­dal?’” says Lucy.

In some cases two vol­un­teers may have to phys­i­cally re­strain a per­son at the river’s edge while the third vol­un­teer calls emer­gency ser­vices. Some­times they can talk some­one out of en­ter­ing the wa­ter. Lucy says they never know what’s go­ing to hap­pen on any given night.

“There was an el­derly man once and when we ap­proached him he didn’t want to talk to us. He had his back turned to us but the minute we asked if he was OK, he broke down in tears. We were the first peo­ple he had spo­ken to in six weeks. He was very lonely. He had no­body,” she says.

“What we do is get a per­son talk­ing for 15 min­utes or for an hour and then we’d phone some­one they want us to con­tact. A lot of fam­i­lies haven’t a clue what has been go­ing on be­cause peo­ple hide how they feel,” says Lucy.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.