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Wednesday 29 January 2020

'We started off with nothing': How two brothers set up life-saving suicide patrol crew

.....  and are inspiring other towns to do the same

Aoife Walsh

Aoife Walsh

With over 140 lives saved, a crew that spans up to 50 trained volunteers, and a facility to provide countless hours of life-saving training, Waterford Marine Search and Rescue (WMSAR) will have a lot to be proud of ahead of their 10th anniversary in January.

Founders Darryl and Declan Barry set up WSMAR in 2010 with few resources.

Caught in the clutches of a recession, the group had to build themselves from the ground up through donations from local businesses, the free time of volunteers, and dedication to aim of protecting those who find themselves in the water.

"We started off with four volunteers, two suits, two life jackets, a radio, 20 litres of views and lend of a boat. We had nothing," Darryl told Independent.ie.

"Looking back on it now to see what we’ve achieved in 10 years. We have three search and rescue boats, two vehicles, 50 volunteers, a state of the art base.

"We did all that in the midst of a recession as well. It’s a testament to the people of Waterford as well, our volunteers here. People are so generous because they see the work that we do."

Soon after the search and rescue operation was underway, the team turned their focus onto setting up a suicide patrol service - an operation that offers support and protection to those considering entering the waters.

"Even though we set out as a search and rescue service, it started to turn into a suicide prevention operation.

"We decided to put a patrol system in place to see if we could stop people from entering the water instead of waiting for someone to enter and for the phone to ring and then to have to respond.

"Our suicide search and patrol has saved over 140 lives since we started," he said.

Being the first of its kind, the success of the Waterford search and rescue team have inspired other counties to put similar initiatives in place.

"We were the first here in Waterford to set up a suicide patrol, and that was a great achievement I think.

"We try and do as much prevention work as possible and the suicide prevention patrols definitely have paid off.

"Wexford Marine Watch have started up their patrol system, we helped Limerick get set up, they have two patrol teams now. Galway are after setting up, and Clonmel.

"There’s an awful lot of different areas that have started up on the back of Waterford city," he said.

Darryl said the generosity shown from the people of Waterford is the core of their success, explaining that funding comes from bag-packs, local businesses, ticket sales and table quizzes.

"You’re out shaking buckets every year, the annual collection. We’re lucky we have the building here and we can rent out the rooms to generate income," he added.

Ahead of the festive season, the group plan to continue their patrols across the River Suir.

However, WMSAR have found more supports are needed in the months after Christmas.

"We would find [we need more supports in] January and February - when things quieten down, relatives have gone home and the Christmas tree has come down.

"It’s a lonely time and the bills start coming in. We find that seems to be busier than Christmas."

If you have been affected by any issues raised in this article, you can contact Samaritans helpline 116 123 or Aware helpline 1800 80 48 48 or Pieta House on 1800 247 247.

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