In praise of Limerick’s everyday heroes

first_imgWATCH: “Everyone is fighting so hard to get on” – Pat Ryan on competitive camogie squads Advertisement RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR Twitter Facebook TAGSCorbett Suicide Prevention Patrol (CSPP)featuredlimerick Limerick Artist ‘Willzee’ releases new Music Video – “A Dream of Peace” Linkedin Predictions on the future of learning discussed at Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival Printcenter_img WhatsApp Previous articleBooka’s brass 8-piece band’s big soundNext articleIrish Chamber Orchestra’s Haydn with Hungary Alan Jacques Vanishing Ireland podcast documenting interviews with people over 70’s, looking for volunteers to share their stories Email THE Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol have played a crucial role in ensuring that up to 300 Limerick people have made it home safely after interventions along the River Shannon. Limerick Post reporter Alan Jacques joined the volunteer unit on Alan Jacques [email protected] CAN’T imagine there is anyone in Limerick who doesn’t feel that a huge debt of gratitude is owed to the volunteers of the Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol (CSPP).Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter Sign Up Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday night, CSPP volunteers give up their time to patrol between the New Bridge, Sarsfield Bridge, Thomond Bridge and Baal’s Bridge to identify and provide support to those in distress and possibly contemplating suicide.Since setting up in 2012, the voluntary organisation has made 275 suicide interventions at the river — with 100 of these described as physical interventions.I joined the suicide prevention patrol last month on a cold and wet Thursday night to walk the River Shannon from 9pm to 1am.After a day’s work, I had to psyche myself up to leave the comforts of home that evening to face the wind, rain and bitter cold.The five CSPP patrol members I joined that night — Mike Mulholland, Colin Urquhart, Phil Hogan, Terry Byrne and Mary O’Looney — had also just finished a hard day’s work. But it was clear that none of them would have chosen to be anywhere else as they navigated countless straps and zips on their Arctic-repelling floatation suits at their base in the Potato Market to prepare for the night ahead.“Sure, I could be at home by the fire watching TV, but then tonight could be the night someone is down at the river crying out for someone to talk too,” CSPP volunteer Terry Byrne explained.As a full moon rose over an ominously dark and leaden sky, the volunteer unit equipped with high-powered torches, first aid kits, a defibrillator and throw bags were ready to face the elements as they patrolled the banks of the River Shannon.The high esteem the CSPP volunteers are held in by Limerick people quickly became evident as passers-by constantly thanked and praised them for their invaluable service to the city.“Thanks for being out here,” said one young man, reeking of aftershave, as he scurried across Sarsfield Bridge on his way into town.“Fair play to you lads,” another man heading for home remarked.“I have to commend ye. Ye do an amazing job,” one artful dodger cheekily roared out of the shadows as he tried the handles of parked cars on Howley’s Quay.Like water off a mallard’s back, the Corbett volunteers took the compliments and colourful nightlife all in their stride. They have witnessed some harrowing sights and encountered all varieties of wildlife along the riverbank over the last three years.“There isn’t much we haven’t seen down here,” non-phased CSPP chairman Mike Mulholland admitted.“There was two girls sitting naked in a car on O’Callaghan Strand one night. Two fellas were watching them from across the street, but I won’t tell you what they were doing!“We’ve seen it all from dogging to prostitution to drug dealing and cruising,” said Mike.During the patrol, I was struck by the volunteers high level of awareness, both of their surroundings and those who frequented it. They quickly zoned in on individuals who walked alone or stood gazing into the water, in case they might be in distress.“It’s okay, he’s walking a dog,” volunteer Mary O’Looney shouted out to team members at one point as they watch the movements of a lone figure in Arthur’s Quay Park.Thanks to their ASSIST applied suicide intervention skills training, volunteers know how to approach and talk to people who may be in deep despair and seriously contemplating entering the river.“It can be very tough. Those who’ve already made up their mind to go in can get aggressive and curse you for stopping them. It’s awful to hear someone shouting at you to let them end their pain,” Mike tells me.The CSPP volunteers take their work very seriously and are highly alert the entire time we are on patrol. Over the course of the patrol we walked between 8 to 10kms, while the group’s two bicycles donated by Frank Hogan Motors, allows them to cover up to 20kms on any given night.It’s grim down by the river at night and you can see why post-traumatic stress might be par for the course in this line of work.Volunteers have had to physically stop people from going into the river, people who see no other alternative than to end their own lives; they have witnessed brutal acts of violence after drunken fights spilling out of pubs and clubs, and constantly meet despondent and broken people who see no future.CSPP volunteers have a difficult job and a counsellor is available to them 24-7.“We had the busiest Christmas last year since we started. There were 18 interventions over 12 nights. Some nights you might not talk to a sinner and then other nights there might be a couple of interventions,” Mike explained.“It would be great if we didn’t have to be out here at all but right now this service is needed. For many people, we are their first point of contact and we feel guilty when we’re not here for them.”Mike, whose own father died by suicide 13 years ago, insists that suicide only leaves unanswered questions for the families left behind.“It’s a horrible feeling because you’ll never get the answers. We do feel a massive responsibility to those who find themselves in distress down at the river. Every time I’m at home and I hear the Coastguard helicopter it’s like a kick in the guts. You can’t help but wonder if we could have helped that person if we were here,” he said.As well as being a suicide prevention unit, CSPP volunteers are trained in first aid, and are often the first on the scene after a violent attack or drunken incident in the city at weekends. The volunteers have a good relationship with the Gardaí and emergency services and make huge personal sacrifices to ensure Limerick’s sons and daughters make it home safely at night.“I always worry for young women when I see them walking home at four o’clock in the morning,” volunteer Terry Byrne confessed.“You’d see young fellas as well who are very drunk going over the bridge on a Saturday night and you have to be very vigilant that they don’t fall into the water. You would worry for them,” she said.“I get the Limerick Post every Thursday morning and check the anniversaries in case anyone who has died by suicide’s anniversary is coming up – just so we can be on the lookout for people from their circle of friends that might be thinking about copying them. This has happened in the past,” Mike interjects.As I watched patrol members shine their torches into the dark, murky waters of the River Shannon and relay horror stories of some of the heartbreaking interventions they’ve made, it’s difficult to think of them as anything other than heroic.They patrol the river because they care and want to give something back.Thankfully my night on patrol with the Corbett group passed without incident, but on another night these selfless volunteers make all the difference between life and death. Simply by being there, they make a difference.American actor Edward Albert once said that “the simple act of caring is heroic”. This is most certainly true of the Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol. Limerick Ladies National Football League opener to be streamed live NewsLocal NewsIn praise of Limerick’s everyday heroesBy Alan Jacques – March 5, 2015 1173 Limerick’s National Camogie League double header to be streamed live last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *