Leaving Certificate student Katie Whelan got the idea when she had a dream about her cousin who took her own life three years ago.
“In my dream Lisa was just standing there and she was contemplating jumping off but the whole bridge was lit up and she just stepped back and the dream ended there, and I knew then I had to do something with it, that the dream came to me for a reason,” said Katie.
Afterwards, the 18-year-old set up an online petition to get the City and County Councils to light up Shannon Bridge, Sarsfield Bridge and Thomond Bridge with solar-powered boxes.
So far the petition has attracted more than 4,000 signatures.
“I want to light up Limerick’s bridges with positive, life-affirming messages that are in clear hard plastic boxes, and lit up by solar-powered lights, to brighten up the bridges and help somebody who’s in a dark place, who’s contemplating going into the river,” said Katie.
“I need the people of Limerick behind me if we are to gain the council’s support and get this up and running.”
A student at Ard Scoil Mhuire in Corbally, Katie said she has known others who have died by suicide and more who have attempted it — that it has become normalised in society.
“We are desensitised to [suicide] at the moment because it is happening so often, it has escalated so much,” she said.
The idea to light up Limerick’s bridges has gained support from various suicide prevention groups including Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol (CSPP), a voluntary organisation that patrols the bridges of Limerick City keeping an eye out for anyone looking distressed near the water’s edge late at night.
Chairman of CSPP, Mike Mulholland, said he was “fully behind” the proposal.
“Anything that could give hope to someone is definitely worth trying. It might just be what someone needs to snap them out of it if they’re there thinking of taking their own life,” he said.
“There’s a lot of support for it and there are so many offers of donations that I think it will go ahead. Hopefully this will make people realise there is a serious suicide problem in Limerick, and in Ireland in general.”
Deputy mayor Joe Crowley has come out in support of the initiative, saying it was definitely something he’d get involved with.
“We have a council meeting next week so I’ll be able to bring up the issue and ask about it. We can see what the next step might be,” he said.
To find out more about Light Up Limerick’s Bridges, search for LisasLightLimerick on Facebook.
For information and support, contact Aware on 01 661 7211 or the Samaritans on 116 123.