Belfast Telegraph

Foyle Search and Rescue volunteers see marked increase in 2018 rescues

Foyle Search and Rescue patrols a 12-mile stretch of the Londonderry waterway.

Foyle Search and Rescue volunteer Pat Carlin (Brian Lawless/PA)
Foyle Search and Rescue volunteer Pat Carlin (Brian Lawless/PA)

A search and rescue organisation that has saved almost 4,000 lives since its inception, has seen a marked increase in callouts in 2018.

Foyle Search and Rescue, a volunteer-run organisation that patrols the 12-mile stretch of the River Foyle in Londonderry, reported a 50% rise in incidents they attended in the past 12 months.

The group recorded 457 incidents, with men in their twenties and thirties the most common demographic of those helped.

A Samaritans report found that the number of men taking their own lives in Northern Ireland per 100,000 of the population had increased by 82% from 1985 to 2015.

Foyle rescue team volunteer Pat Carlin said support services in the city are overstretched, but essential.

“It’s a traditional male thing – men hide their emotions. We know from dealing with them,” he said.

“There’s a lot of help out there, but there’s a lot more that can be done. We’re not a mental health service, we’re a rescue service.

“The services there are doing the best they can but they’re overstretched and would benefit from more funding.”

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Foyle Search and Rescue volunteers Pat Carlin (left), 1st response team, and Steven Durrent, Boat Co-ordinator, at their headquarters on the banks of the Foyle in Londonderry. (Brian Lawless/PA Wire)

Mr Carlin says those rescued from the water almost always express gratitude to those involved in giving them a second chance at life.

“The ones who get back in contact with us afterwards are very, very thankful, and very relieved.

“A very common notion is as soon as they enter the water they think; ‘No, I don’t want to’, so they are very glad to be recovered.

“No one knows the exact reasons why people do it. There are common reasons like drugs and family issues; I think employment is a big issue.

“There was a review done recently into the rate of employment in the city and that obviously has an effect on people and that is part and parcel of the issue.”

Londonderry has suffered from the highest unemployment of any city in the UK for several years.

The latest Labour Force Report covering October to December 2017 found that the Foyle constituency has an unemployment rate of 7.9% that is more than twice the Northern Ireland average of 3.8%.

Foyle is the only Northern Irish constituency to feature in the UK’s top 10, not just for its percentage of unemployed, but also for youth claimants and the total number claiming unemployment benefit.

“I just wish people knew it was OK to talk, and it’s OK to ask people if they need help,” Mr Carlin added.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in people under the age of 35 in the UK.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this story contact Lifeline on 0808 808 8000.

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