‘We are all here for the right reason; we care about people’
By Jodie McCormack
Almost 500 people have attempted suicide at the River Shannon in Limerick over the past five years, according to figures from the Garda PULSE system.
493 incidents of “person misadventure” were reported over the 5-year-period.
The Treaty County has had the highest rate of suicide in the country over the same time period according to additional figures from a report released by the HSE’s National Office for Suicide Prevention.
Limerick Suicide Watch (LSW), a volunteer group founded in 2016 have been working hard to combat these stark figures.
Teams of volunteers undergo intensive training before heading out in Limerick City patrolling the bridges and banks of the River Shannon.
Speaking of their work Public Relations Officer Audrey Ellis told Limerick Voice: “One of our main services is to patrol the banks and the bridges along the River Shannon and keep an eye out for anybody who could be destressed or suicidal.”
“As well as that we look after the public. First aid, somebody could be lonely, some people are just looking for directions.”
Ms Ellis continued: “Limerick Suicide Watch started in 2016, we recognised that there was something needed out there. We started off with about 20-30 people patrolling and started off out of the back of a car and we’ve built from there.”
All volunteers are welcome at LSW given they are 25 years old and over and have not been bereaved by suicide in the past two years.
Training officer Shannon McNamara stressed that you do not need to be a psychologist or studying in the field to become a volunteer.
Ms McNamara said: “ We actually don’t really have anyone here who studies psychology. We’re all just everyday people with jobs and families. We all come from very different walks of life, really all you need to be a volunteer is just to be there for the right reasons. We are all here for the right reason; we care about people.”
Volunteers first meet LSW for an interview and will then go on to get garda vetted and undergo LSW’s training programme and first aid training.
Successful volunteers then join the group on an initial 3-month probation period.
Volunteers are required to do three nights a month, one being a Saturday as the group patrol for longer hours.
Ms McNamara elaborated: “When you start on probation there is a training we run ourselves it’s called riverside training. It basically shows them how to use the equipment, how to tie onto each other if we had to go down slipways and steps.”
“We put them into scenarios where we get some of our members to act as actors and we give them certain situations to teach them how to talk to people, how to approach it.”
“Other than that, you have to do a course with the HSE called Assist. That’s more the talking side of things, how to notice the signs, what to look for, what to say and so on.”
Ms acknowledged the job may not be for everyone, but stressed that was one of the reasons for their probationary period and there’s no obligation to stay with the group if you realise it’s not for you.
LSW have a volunteer welfare team and counsellors on hand who regularly check in with volunteers.
The group have recently developed an app which details supports available from themselves and other services across the country.
Ms McNamara urged anyone who may be struggling to download their app or reach out to them on social media.