Belfast Telegraph

Prison officer recalls saving suicidal inmate’s life

She knew him as a bubbly and chatty character from his previous periods behind bars and was immediately suspicious because he was quiet.

A prison officer who saved a suicidal inmate’s life has said she will never forget the experience (Michael Cooper/PA)
A prison officer who saved a suicidal inmate’s life has said she will never forget the experience (Michael Cooper/PA)

By Michael McHugh, PA

A prison officer who saved a suicidal inmate’s life in Northern Ireland has said she will never forget the experience.

The prisoner was unusually quiet a short time after being admitted to Maghaberry prison in Co Antrim.

She knew him as a bubbly and chatty character from his previous periods behind bars and told the PA news agency exclusively she was immediately suspicious.

She said: “It is something you never forget, it is like it happened yesterday, I can still see him sitting in that cell today, it never leaves you.”

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Maghaberry governor David Kennedy said he was proud and humbled by his colleague’s quick-thinking and intuition, which he said was replicated by others across the service (Michael Cooper/PA).

She added: “I carried him out of his cell, he was unconscious and had laboured breathing.”

He was given medical treatment and put under closer observation.

They had enjoyed a good rapport from his previous periods of incarceration and the inmate had assured another officer he was OK.

However, the prison officer was not happy when she read a record of that conversation last November and immediately checked on the prisoner.

She recalled that she sounded the alarm when she found him unconscious and started CPR.

Her quick actions saved his life and he is now back playing GAA inside the prison.

The prisoner had been trying to come to terms with the death of a child and was finding it difficult.

It is something you never forget, it is like it happened yesterday, I can still see him sitting in that cell today, it never leaves you Maghaberry prison officer

Governor David Kennedy said he was proud and humbled by his colleague’s quick-thinking and intuition, which he said was replicated by others across the service.

He added: “I am very impressed with what they do under such difficult circumstances.”

In the 12 months to May this year there have been 12 attempted hangings at Maghaberry.

The main factors or triggers include mental health problems, anxiety or worry about family members, bullying and drug use, as well as a history of self-harm or attempted suicide.

Officials also recorded 30 overdoses, intentional and non-intentional, plus three ruptures of drug packages.

Mr Kennedy said: “The number of lives saved in Maghaberry because of the professional relationship and because of the training that staff have cannot be quantified.

“We have had 13 saved over the past three years.

“If the person who was in crisis took the exact same actions as they did whilst in the community in their own home, that person would no longer be alive.

“It is because they took those actions here, where a member of staff intervened within seconds, and got them into a position where they could start delivering first aid.”

About two thirds of those admitted to Maghaberry self-report having mental health problems, although the number of acute cases is much lower and that proportion is based on surveys rather than medical opinion.

Last year, eight prisoners waited one to five months for transfer to psychiatric units in the community.

PA

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