Cork's 'bridges of hope' lit up for those lost to suicide 

Cork's 'bridges of hope' lit up for those lost to suicide 

Volunteers from Cork City Missing Persons Search and Recovery taking part in the Bear Faith and Bear Hope campaign traversing the river from the Port of Cork to the Mercy Hospital. Picture: Larry Cummins

There were emotional scenes on Cork’s bridges as some 200 family members and volunteers lit candles and held phones aloft in memory of those lost to suicide, while two giant, brightly lit teddy bears made a symbolic journey up the north channel of the River Lee.

As part of Cork Penny Dinners’ Bridges of Hope campaign, Bear Faith and Bear Hope traversed the river from the Port of Cork to the Mercy Hospital, and the haunting sound of bagpipes playing “Amazing Grace” echoed from bridge to bridge while darkness fell.

On the North Gate Bridge, volunteers from the Shine a Light Suicide and Mental Health Awareness group held up banners reading “Talking is a sign of strength, not weakness”, while garda, fire service, ambulance, and coastguard vehicles flashed their lights and blared their sirens.

On St Vincent’s Bridge, the High Hopes Choir sang R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts”, and Elbow’s “One Day Like This”, and tears were shed as Aslan’s glorious chorus “How can I protect you in this Crazy World?” proved too much for some of those with phones showing photographs of loved ones lost.

The volunteers made their dusk journey to raise awareness of the work they do, and as an exercise in suicide prevention. 
The volunteers made their dusk journey to raise awareness of the work they do, and as an exercise in suicide prevention. 

On the water below, volunteers from Cork City Missing Persons Search and Recovery (CCMPSAR) circled their boats, their giant bear passengers symbolising all of the little bears Penny Dinners and CCMPSAR volunteers have placed on every bridge in the city, each one bearing the message “You are loved”.

Caitriona Twomey, Cork Penny Dinners co-ordinator, told the Irish Examiner the event had been planned to raise awareness of poverty, mental health issues, addiction, homelessness, and suicide.

Tonight, we were honoured to have so many friends here, people like the Samaritans, Circle of Hope, the Red Cross, the Sexual Violence Centre Cork, our own recovery group and volunteers, and so many bereaved families.

“Tonight was to remember all of those we have lost to suicide and to raise awareness that help is available close to hand, and hopefully we might even have helped to save some lives,” Ms Twomey said.

A similar journey along the River Lee’s south channel is planned for next month.

 Two rigid inflatable boats, with support from a Port of Cork rib, brought two giant teddy bears up the Lee as the  undersides of the city's bridges were lit up.
Two rigid inflatable boats, with support from a Port of Cork rib, brought two giant teddy bears up the Lee as the  undersides of the city's bridges were lit up.

After the event, around 11.30pm that night, when CCMPSAR volunteers had parked their boats at the Port of Cork and were about to head home, they met someone in distress on the Brian Boru Bridge and persuaded them not to jump, staying with them and keeping them safe until gardaí and ambulance could arrive.

  • Contact the Samaritans, day or night, free on 116 123, or email jo@samaritans.ie. Contact Pieta House, day or night, free on 1800 247247, or text HELP to 51444. Contact the Shine a Light Suicide and Mental Health Awareness group by private message on its Facebook page.

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