friendly Fern helps save lives


FERN the four year old female German Shepard/Retriever is helping Limerick Suicide Watch (LSW) save lives.

Owner Mike O’Mara said his four legged friend has proven a valuable asset to LSW and has been involved in numerous interventions and has helped many people in distress.

Mike who has been a trainer for the Irish Guide dogs for the Blind for many years often thought while patrolling the Shannon over the last five years, how he would like to introduce a dog to see if it would help people in distress to interact with the patrol more quickly through the dog.

“I did a lot of research through other Therapy dog groups and got a lot of expert advice from people working within the mental health area. The response I got was incredible and so Fern was introduced to patrols on a trial basis, and two years down the road she has proven a valuable asset to LSW after being involved in numerous interventions helping people in distress.

“She is very calming when she interacts with people and has a natural ability to pick up on a person when they are low, and just approaches them and looks for a hug, and snuggles in to them. The response from these people is amazing to see and they usually open up to us much quicker while hugging or rubbing Fern.

“We believe she is the first dog to do this kind of work and we are all very proud of her. As you can imagine she is very popular with all our volunteers and gets spoilt by everyone,” said Mike.

Mike O’Mara and Fern

Fern was a pup that Mike was training for the Irish Guide dogs for the Blind but was withdrawn from advanced training as an Autism assistance dog two years ago because she was too friendly, she wanted to greet every person or dog she met while out training.

Mike has trained pups for the Irish Guide dogs for about 9 years and has a number of dogs now working in full time roles with both visually impaired and Autistic clients around the country.

The process in becoming a puppy trainer involves an Irish guide dogs supervisor coming to your home to access your suitability to take on the role. Then training is done on an ongoing basis through classes with other puppy trainers in group and individual situations.

“A pup will remain with me from eight weeks for about 14 months before returning to Cork to be accessed for suitability for either Guide Dog or Assistance Dog and then continue on to advanced training in the center.

“As you can imagine letting the pups go after such a long time training them is extremely difficult and is the part of the experience I dreaded every time it came around. They became a part of the family very quickly even if you tried not to get too attached,” added Mike.

Since early 2017 Fern has also become a Therapy dog with Brothers of Charity where she calls to their center in Bawnmore and visits a number of clients who are intellectually challenged.

“She gets an amazing response from all the clients and staff alike in the center. The staff have told me that it is the highlight of the week when she arrives on site. She also does individual visits to houses in the community,” said Mike.

Fern also remains an Ambassador dog with The Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind and does many events such as school and business visits and supports many fundraising events around the country.

“She is a very busy lady but loves all the attention and fuss she gets in all the work she does,” added Mike.

http://www.limericksuicidewatch.ie/

 

Castletroy and District Lions host ASIST


Civil Defence volunteer Gary Shanahan would feel more confident to help someone in distress having completed the Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) course which recently took place in the Castletroy Park hotel, hosted by the Castletroy and District Lions Club.

In Ireland more than 20,000 people have taken this course since it was development in 1983, more than a million people have taken the ASIST course, which is a two day workshop in suicide first aid. The Living Works’ ASIST programme was developed in Canada in 1983 and is a Health Service Initiative (HSE) started in 2003. Starting in Canada in the early 1980s, More than half a million people have participated worldwide – over 20,000 in Ireland. The NOSP was formed directly after the launch of Ireland’s first suicide prevention strategy; Reach Out: A National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention 2005-2014. The NOSP coordinates ASIST at a national level.

The course trains participants to reduce the immediate risk of a suicide and increase the support for a person at risk. It also provides opportunities to learn what a person at risk may need in order to keep safe and get more help and it encourages honest, open and direct talk about suicide as part of preparing people to provide suicide first aid.

Gary, who is a Swiftwater and Flood Responder Instructor joined the Civil Defence in 2010 said, “A huge part of what we do is search and rescue. Often the person we are searching for may be in a distress state with intent to harming themselves. Our goal is to find the person before any harm can come to them. Once found it is vital to keep the person safe until they receive the help they need. I knew from talking to others that have done this course that it would give me the skills to keep that person safe.”

The Civil Defence is largely made up of volunteers who come from all backgrounds. There are between 3,500 to 4,000 volunteers throughout the country. Each county is then managed by a Civil Defence Officer who are employees of the local authority. The Civil Defence college is based in Roscrea and the staff that work there are employed by the Department of Defence.

 “Apart from meeting some fantastic likeminded people, I feel I gained a lot from the course. It gave me the confidence to approach a person in distress. The skills I learned gave me a clear end goal and a structure on how to get there. It was emotionally tough at times but well worth doing,” added Gary.

 The Castletroy and District Lions Club host the ASIST every year. 

For people who are affected to www.yourmentalhealth.ie for further information on services and also the 24/7 free phone numbers for Samaritan’s 116123 and Pieta House on 1800 247 247

Gary Shanahan