Limerick’s Katie sees dream come true as bridge is lit up

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts

Ardscoile Mhuire Leaving Certificate student Katie Whelan points out one of the LED messages she has seen erected on Thomond Bridge, with Cllr Daniel Butler, who helped turn her dream to reality. Picture: Dave Gaynor
‘IT’S the little things’, ‘Add friends to your tea’, ‘Tomorrow is a new day’, ‘Take a deep breath’, and ‘Turn that frown upside down’.

‘IT’S the little things’, ‘Add friends to your tea’, ‘Tomorrow is a new day’, ‘Take a deep breath’, and ‘Turn that frown upside down’.

These are just a few of the positive, life-affirming messages which will greet people walking over the Thomond Bridge following the hard work of Ard Scoil Mhuire Leaving Certificate student Katie Whelan, 18.

The Dublin Road youngster lost her cousin Lisa to suicide three years ago, and the idea to put up signs came to her in a dream. She lobbied the local authority, and collected thousands of names in support.

And this Tuesday night, her dream came true, as a huge number of people witnessed the erection of ‘Lisa’s Lights’. The LED signs, specially crafted by city firm Alphaset, were launched by Munster star Keith Earls, who has himself lost loved ones to suicide.

“I think Limerick city as a community should be very proud, and really grateful we have someone like Katie who is so young, and someone who we can admire that through her own tragic experiences, has come up with something like this to help promote positive thinking,” he said.

Keith said the issue of suicide is not getting the attention it needs.

“I think if we could all be like Katie, and help promote it, Ireland and Limerick will be a better place,” he added.

Many of Katie’s school friends gathered at the bridge to support her. And before the ceremony started, Cllr Daniel Butler, who has worked with her to get the lights installed, asked people to say something nice to each other.

Addressing the crowd, an emotional Katie said: “This is for Lisa. I hope nobody has to feel the way I felt.

“I want more positive mental health in Limerick and I want for anyone who is feeling lonely or having a bad day to talk about it, find somebody. Have a cup of tea with some friends. A problem shared is a problem halved.”

She also vowed to continue her work around suicide prevention, and is seeking to bring the Jigsaw programme to Limerick.

Backed by Headstrong, Jigsaw is a network of programmes) designed to make sure every young person has somewhere to turn to and someone to talk to.

An emotional evening was rounded off with a local nun, St Peggy, saying a prayer for those bereaved by suicide, while balloons were let off in Lisa’s memory.

Those coping with issues around mental health, depression, self-harm and suicide can contact the Samaritans (116 123), Console (1800 201 890) or Aware (1890 303 302).