Scores of families have been left devastated after countless numbers of loved ones perished by suicide in the River Shannon that flows through the middle of the Treaty City.
Katie Whelan, a Leaving Certificate student, came up with the idea after having a dream over Christmas, in which her late cousin Lisa — who died by suicide three years ago — saw a message on a bridge which changed her mind about ending her life.
Katie’s ambition came a step closer to fruition yesterday when she met with officials at City Hall, Limerick, and received their full backing for the initiative.
Great idea Katie Whelan, well done to you on your inspiring idea and the courage to follow it through http://t.co/ZeKHduKmn4— Wellbeing Matters (@WellbeingMattrs) January 9, 2015
“I’m absolutely thrilled. The [council] said they would support it and that they are fully behind me. I’m looking to raise the money myself because it might take too long if I was to apply for funding from the council. I need [financial] support now.
“I’m hoping to get donations from local businesses and I’m basically looking for the people of Limerick to now step up and give me a hand at doing this,” Katie, 18, said. “I want to thank the radio stations and all the newspapers for giving me the publicity and giving this the push it deserves.”
Katie called for engineers and lighting companies to help her finalise the plan to light up Limerick’s bridges “with positive life-affirming messages 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”.
She added: “I need the electrical companies and engineers to come to me and sit down with me on this. The plastic boxes must be watertight and secured to the bridges.”
Limerick City and County Council gave the go-ahead for the lighted messages to be installed along Thomond Bridge. It is hoped the initiative will be rolled out across all of the city’s bridges in the future.
“Thomond Bridge is the darkest bridge in Limerick. The Shannon Bridge, for instance, is lit up like a runway, so we’ll start at Thomond Bridge. We don’t have to get planning permission because there are already hanging rails on Thomond Bridge, and it’s also one of the most used bridges in the city,” Katie added.
Positive meeting today with Katie Whelan of Lisa's Light and Limerick City & County Council. http://t.co/hefHU9dwUr— Cllr Daniel Butler (@DanielButlerFG) January 8, 2015
Also trying to combat the suicide crisis in the city are Limerick Marine Search and Rescue Service, Limerick City and County Fire and Rescue Service, and the Corbett Suicide Prevention Patrol — whose members walk the bridges at night attempting to stop suicides.
More than 4,000 people have pledged their support on Katie’s Facebook page ‘Lisa’s Light Limerick’.
“If everybody who signed the petition gave even just 10c each, that’s a massive amount of money, and I think it would definitely cover the cost,” Katie said.
To support the campaign visit www.facebook.com/LisasLightLimerick