Limerick girl dreams up anti-suicide campaign

A teenage girl, who lost a cousin to suicide, has launched an online campaign to light up bridges in her native Limerick with "hopeful" anti-suicide messages, to try to prevent others taking their own lives.

Limerick girl dreams up anti-suicide campaign

A teenage girl, who lost a cousin to suicide, has launched an online campaign to light up bridges in her native Limerick with "hopeful" anti-suicide messages, to try to prevent others taking their own lives.

Leaving Certificate student Katie Whelan 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 suicide.

Believing her dream to be a sign from Lisa, who perished after entering the River Shannon, Katie created a Facebook page 'LisasLightLimerick' to advertise her social media campaign to 'Light Up Limerick's Bridges'.

Four thousand people have already signed an online petition asking Limerick City Council to make Katie's dream a reality.

"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," explained Katie, 18.

"In my dream Lisa was just standing there (at the bridge) 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."

While the official figures of suicides on the river is unknown, a growing number of young women and men have begun taking their own lives on the water. The crisis situation has even led to a volunteer group walking the bridges at night hoping to prevent such deaths.

Katie said she hopes her idea will become a reality to help people suffering, realise there is light at the end the darkness.

"I've been through the pain of loosing someone I love through suicide, and it's time the people of Limerick come together to light up Limerick's bridges. I need the people of Limerick behind me if we are to gain the council's support and get this up and running."

Katie said she has known others who have died by suicide and more who have attempted it and thankfully failed. She said suicide has become normalised in society and among her peer group.

"Personally think we are desensitised to (suicide) at the moment because it is happening so often, it has escalated so much. Lisa died three years ago, and at the time it would have been really shocking for something like that to happen. Now, God forbid, it's just like 'another person is gone into the river'."

Katie said she believed more suicide awareness through education should be provided to young people to show the reality of the pain that is caused for the families of those who take their own lives.

"People are not able to deal with their emotions. People don't think it through because suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It should definitely be discussed more in schools."

Katie, a student at Ard Scoil Mhuire, Corbally, Limerick added: "I think that maybe we should have a (designated) class, and it should be worked in as part of our (curriculum). We could also be taught about how to deal with our emotions and about where can we go to talk."

Katie, who is in talks with Limerick City and County Council about her plan, praised those who risk their own lives to save or prevent others from suicide.

Lisa, who had just turned 20, was found quickly by a search and rescue group but died shortly afterwards in hospital surrounded by her devastated family.

"These search and rescue groups are absolutely amazing. It was because of a patrol team on the river that we actually got to say goodbye to Lisa before the doctors switched off the (life support) machines. So, because of the patrol team on the river, I got to say my final goodbyes. What they do is absolutely amazing. They save as many people as they can but it's unfortunate enough that it can't be done 24/7."

To support Katie's campaign or sign her petition visit 'LisasLightLimerick'

Katie concluded: "I want people to sign the petition so I can bring it to the council and show them that there are thousands of people supporting this and we are not going to take no for an answer."

"If it just saves one person, then it will have made a difference. I have to do something about this. This isn't going to be swept under the rug any more."

A spokesman for the Council said they would "look into" Katie's plan.

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