A group of volunteers have begun patrolling the bridges in Derry who say they want to bolster services and support people suffering from poor mental health.
Volunteers with the Foyle Prevention Team recently started patrolling the banks of the River Foyle along the three bridges.
Christopher Kerr helped set up the new group along with members of the Republican Network for Unity (RNU) organisation.
The Foyle Prevention Team say they have welcomed people from any and all backgrounds to join the group.
It has been operational for 12 weeks and in that time volunteers say they have helped over 20 people on the bridges.
Mr Kerr said: “What we can man at the minute is Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday but we’re hoping it will grow and we can cover the Monday as well.
“We realise Foyle Search and Rescue is under a lot of pressure too and thought we could step in to relieve some of that pressure and help people in our own town.
“I lost a brother to drugs, a few other volunteers lost family to suicide and people who tried to take their own lives before.
“People are coming out and they feel good about helping other people so it is reciprocal.”
Long-established local charity Foyle Search and Rescue made it clear that its volunteers work around the clock and have teams on call 24/7, seven days a week in the form of its emergency response team, which is in addition to its regular duty nights of Thursday to Saturday.
Local businessmen have supported Foyle Prevention Team, Mr Kerr said, by helping them to buy the wet gear, coats, hats, bibs and torches but they are all working on a voluntary basis.
The Covid-19 pandemic has had a ‘massive impact’ on people’s mental health, Mr Kerr said, and they believe the service needs to be maintained.
Financial stress, problems at home and drugs are issues he cited.
People as young as 17 and up to 65 years of age have required assistance to date.
The team are then able to refer people at risk on to the emergency services or other agencies.
Long-term they want to continue to patrol the bridges, highlighting 'a lack of support' and promoting positive mental health in the city.
“If anybody can give an hour of their time to help, any councillors want to get on board then we’d appreciate their support,” Mr Kerr concluded.
The Community Crisis Intervention Service (CCIS) at Holywell Trust on Bishop Street now runs on additional days, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 5pm - 10pm
And from 8pm on Thursday right through to 8am on Sunday morning to cover the weekend period when other services may not be available.
If you feel in crisis and need support or if you have observed someone who is in distress and may come to significant harm through self-harm and suicidal behaviour please call CCIS on 028 7126 2300.
If you need to speak to someone urgently, please call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000, the Samaritans or attend your local Emergency Department.
If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Derry Now editorial team on 028 7129 6600 for Derry City stories Or 028 7774 3970 for County Derry stories. Or you can email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org at any time.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from Derrynow.com
Buy the e-paper of the Derry News and the County Derry Post here for instant access to Derry's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Derry with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.