A service which we hope will not be needed but in reality will be called upon time and time again was officially launched at the weekend following months of preparation, training and commitment.
Volunteers from the River Suir Suicide Patrol have been walking the banks of the Suir in Clonmel in the small hours of weekend mornings, midnight to 3/4am, in recent times; on the watch for those in a vulnerable position who could be in need of a word, a friendly face and a trained ear to bring back from the literal and metaphorical brink.
“Recognise, Respond, Prevent,” are the watchwords of the patrol members who join similar groups in a handful of other towns and cities but whose example is likely to be followed by more in times to come.
“It’s a huge commitment,” as independent TD Séamus Healy put it at Saturday’s launch, describing the patrol as “something that’s badly needed” not just in Clonmel but elsewhere.
“Unfortunately, mental health services in the county are under-resourced, at best, and there’s great credit due to each and every one of you volunteers who are taking on this job and are prepared to do it at all hours of the day and night.”
PRO Jacinta Mullins thanked everyone for their support, including members of the Red Cross and Order of Malta who attended, while chairperson June Looby dedicated the launch to the memory of Sophie Burke, for whom they helped search for three weeks before Sophie’s body was found near Carrick-on-Suir before Christmas.
“This is for you, and hopefully we’ll save a few lives along the way.”
Paddy Cummins of C-SAW - Community Support Awareness Workers - was involved in training the volunteers and paid tribute to them for their time and commitment and dedication. At the beginning he urged them to “take a step back” to allow time to establish what was needed to set up the patrol on a proper footing and found them always very willing to progress and to learn.
“Now they have everything in place and they’ve grown, personally, in confidence,” he said.
The service was blessed by parish priest of St Oliver’s, Fr Michael Hegarty, who said he hoped it wouldn’t be needed but expected that it would, a sentiment echoed by borough mayor Cllr Andy Moloney. “It might just be a case of walking along the riverbank and meeting someone and maybe all they want is a chat; that could be the difference between them staying on one side of the rails rather than the other.”
Other volunteers on the patrol’s committee include vice-chair Pamela Hallihan, secretary Anne Marie Scli, treasurer Patrick McGrath and equipment officer Eoin O’Flaherty.