Suicide prevention plan offers a light in the darkness

A Limerick woman who lost her cousin to suicide is planning to beam a message of hope into the city’s night sky.

Katie Whelan

Charity worker Katie Whelan, 21, from the Dublin Road, has already erected a series of lights on one of the city’s bridges offering positive messages to those who may be in distress.

Now, she has put in place plans to have an anti-suicide message beamed in Limerick’s sky.

“We’ve looked as far as Turkey to get it manufactured. It would be a big massive light beam shining in the sky above Limerick,” says Katie.

“But we hope to have a hope message which will constantly beam into Limerick’s sky to let everyone know when they look up, that there is always someone for them — there is always someone to speak to.”

She made the comments as she accepted a cheque for €445 from the Shannon Banks scout group in Co Clare. They helped raise the money from a Christmas crib creation.

Local parish priest Fr Derek Leonard told the group: “I think it’s lovely the fact you’re prepared to help people less well off than yourselves. It is about looking outside yourselves. You learn a lot from scouts.

“If you learn to think beyond yourselves and be aware of those most in need, you learn a lot.”

Katie set up the Lisa’s Lights charity in 2015 aged just 18 in memory of a young cousin who died.

Since then, Katie she has travelled to schools across the region to raise awareness of the need to help people who may be in suicidal distress.

Katie, currently completing a business studies course at the University of Limerick, was named Limerick’s Person of the Year in 2015 for her efforts.

After her cousin’s death, she found hope in a dream which served as an inspiration to erect positive messages of hope along Thomond Bridge in Limerick.

“One night I had a dream of Lisa standing on Thomond Bridge and all of a sudden everything around her lit up and she stepped back,” says Katie. 

“Unfortunately, that was not the reality. I knew then I had to do something with the idea that came to me in a dream.”

So after radio interviews, newspaper reports, and collaboration with local authorities, Thomond Bridge was lit up with eight lights — known as Lisa’s Lights.

Local company Alphaset designed the light-boxes which were made with a very hard plastic and the eight lights were attached to the main power line on the bridge.

Each installation has a separate message which Katie came up with, having talked with members of the HSE suicide prevention and mental health departments.

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