Suicide patrol volunteers operating out of car boots

John Costelloe, Sinn Féin. Photo: Cian Reinhardt

VOLUNTEERS who respond to people contemplating suicide are operating out the back of their own cars, Limerick city councillors were told at their monthly meeting on Monday.

Cllr John Costello (SF) had proposed that the council provide a base for the various suicide patrols who walk the banks of the River Shannon in every kind of weather.

“Many years ago, I saw a young girl drown in the river and it has affected me ever since.

“Limerick Suicide Watch has 67 members and they are hoping to recruit more. To say these people are the guardians of our riverbanks is an understatement”.

The Sinn Féin councillor said that the lease on the premises that serves as the group’s base is about to expire and it was “incumbent on this council to provide a facility for this wonderful group”.

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City West councillor, James Collins (FF) said that there are a number of suicide patrol groups as well as a land search and recovery group.

“They are all volunteers providing an invaluable service in their own time and at their own expense. I met one group and they operate out of the back of their cars.

“They have no base, no place to store or dry equipment. Even if was a shared space, we should provide a facility for these groups.”

City East councillor, Kieran O’Hanlon (FF) suggested a shared facility with St Michael’s Rowing Club at the former Cleeves factory site.

“We are a university city and we have a lot of young students who have tragically taken their own lives,” he said.

City North councillor, Frankie Daly (IND) suggested that “something as simple as a converted freight container could be a start and it could be used by all of the groups”.

However, Solidarity councillor for City North, Mary Cahillane warned that any interim measure could become a permanent solution.

“We have a suicide rate which is double the national average but when the volunteers talk someone down, they need somewhere to bring them.

“Not only should the council provide a space but we should also look at providing a full-time counsellor”.

Cllr Sean Lynch (FF) said there was nowhere for families to turn when there is a mental health crisis.

“We need a centre of excellence here. The only such centre is in Dublin. We need a bigger conversation about this”.

City North councillor, John Gilligan suggested that whichever company gets the contract for the planned building works along the river should be told that the provision of a centre for the services was a condition of the contract.

Metropolitan Mayor Daniel Butler (FG) said it would be wrong to give the impression that there was nothing in Limerick for mental health.

“There are many organisations such as My Mind, Blue Box and Pieta House. What we are talking about here are people in crisis. People are admitted to the psychiatric assessment unit at University Hospital Limerick and they can be there for a week without seeing a psychiatrist. Then they leave and it happens all over again,” he said.