By Caitriona McMahon
It’s 3am, an alert has come through from dispatch. Jolting upright I step into the already waiting boots at the foot of the bed followed by pants, T-shirt and jacket before throwing a pre-packed response bag over my back.
This life requires pre planning. When on duty you must be ready to go at the drop of a hat – and I am one of a team who travel to the location of someone who can no longer find a reason to live.
We could be called to any region in west Limerick at any time and we as volunteers, have made that commitment.
Years earlier I was suicidal myself and tonight I am travelling to someone in the same position knowing all too well how they may feel.
Some may find what we do daunting but for us it’s anything but that. We know that with our trained skills and human, caring approach we can offer support.
No two people or no two situations we travel to are ever the same but there is a common thread which is that in the middle of the night when most services are closed our brothers, sisters, friends, mothers, fathers need non judgemental support, someone to look them in the eye and say it’s ok your not alone.
This is what we, the Community Crisis Response Team are. The group, co-founded by Kayla Cooley, the girl who rescued me from suicide and I, just under nine months ago, we are going from strength-to-strength in terms of plans to expand to other areas.
Once upon a time the word ‘suicidal’ stuck in my throat but now however when I ask someone if they are suicidal I feel a sense of relief as they answer. Why you might ask? Because regardless of the answer I know then what we are dealing with and how we as a team can help.
Take for example a paramedic arriving to someone after a bad fall clutching their leg. At first the medic is most likely unsure what is wrong but if the person said ‘I can see a bone sticking out in my leg’ then straight away the medic can help ease the pain.
As suicide intervention responders we operate the same. We don’t just listen, we hear every story, including what’s not said and this makes a difference.
We don’t carry titles of sir or professor, we carry only understanding and empathy. Not only does it help the person in distress but the worried bystander or friend that may have made the initial call also.
Watching the transition happen from when we arrived initially finding someone distraught, feeling hopeless, terrified and in unimaginable pain to leaving them feeling cared about, a glimmer of hope in their eyes and with a plan for future support and help with mainstream services. This is why we do what we do.
From 5 pm until 6 am our team are ready to respond leaving behind their sitting room fires, families, cosy homes and prepared to travel out to anyone anywhere in west Limerick in distress.
Anyone in distress can make contact with the crisis line through the below number and although physically responding to the west Limerick area currently plans are underway to branch out across munster and nationwide.
In the meantime however we do still get texts and calls from people all over Ireland and the UK from people in distress and our team will continue to help and support them.
For anyone that would like to know more about becoming a responder please check out the “how to get involved” section on our website.
Community Crisis Response Team
Crisis Line Open 5 pm – 6am 7 days a week