Hero teenager calls for a greater awareness of suicide

A teenage girl who talked a man down off a bridge after he threatened to kill himself in the River Shannon has called for greater awareness surrounding suicide and depression.

Shauna O’Riordan, 19, said she was “absolutely shocked” when nobody came to her aid as she clung to the man’s legs after he clambered up on Shannon Bridge in Limerick.

“I was holding his legs, so I was thinking ‘if I let you go, how could I ever get over that because there and then your life is in my hands’.

“Everything happened so fast. I grabbed onto him for dear life, [and] told him one million reasons not to jump in. He was screaming at me.

“I grabbed his face there and then and I said, ‘you look at me, there are people who love you and you will get help’,” she added.

Shauna said she was “crying for hours afterwards” after people ignored her while she tried to save the man.

“No one was helping me, and the traffic was stopped and there were people passing me.

“There was a circle forming and I was thinking people are obviously going to look, but no one was going to help me, there was no one going to get out of their car and I was thinking ‘why?’”

The part-time shop worker said she hoped her story would raise more awareness of people battling with their mental health.

She added: “People just look at other people as a lower class, if maybe, they’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, or maybe they’re not in the right state of mind.

“People look at them as if to say, ‘why would you bother saving someone like that?’.”

Eventually, two men came to Shauna’s aid after many others had turned a blind eye.

The courageous teenager had already pulled the man off the bridge twice but her strength finally gave up just as the two male helpers arrived.

“Depression and suicide [aren’t] getting any lower, and to be honest I don’t think we have such great mental health facilities, because it’s on the rise,” said Shauna.

Last week, mother of three Leona O’Callaghan, from Castletroy, who attempted suicide, gave a unique personal insight into how mental health services had failed her.

The 35-year old, who spent two months in the HSE psychiatric “5B unit” in Limerick, while dealing with a trauma from her childhood, said she was told by a nurse that if she wanted to kill herself to “discharge yourself and do it elsewhere”.

Earlier this year Leaving Certificate student Katie Whelan, from Rhebogue, won council backing to “Light up Limerick’s bridges” with anti-suicide messages of hope.

Meanwhile, the Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol, a group of volunteers, continues to patrol the city’s bridges day and night to try to prevent a rising number of suicides in the River Shannon.

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