New technology aims to reduce suicides at Galway blackspots

A Coastguard helicopter in a search over Galway's waterways.

Galway City Tribune – The distinctive sound of the Coastguard helicopter hovering over the Corrib sends shivers through the city.

Everyone knows what it means and it is rarely good news. Invariably they’re searching for someone who has fallen, or more often than not, jumped, into the river.

That eerie sound and a spate of suicides in Galway earlier this decade, prompted an NUIG student to design an ‘anti-suicide system’, which was specially adapted for the city’s waterways.

“I was sick of hearing about suicides and the state of the mental health system and wanted to provide a physical, engineering solution to a problem,” explained Allison Barry from Oughterard.

Ms Barry, who was educated at Salerno in Salthill, and her NUIG colleague, China Soribre from Nigeria, during their second year studying biomedical engineering, designed an engineering project to tackle the problem of suicide.

Like all good inventions, theirs was simple.

It involves an infrared sensor that triggers the device if someone has stepped onto the bridge railings or wall.

If detected, a text message is sent to a pre-specified number or to someone such as a volunteer or paramedic, who can then decide to either telephone the bridge to negotiate with the individual contemplating jumping, check a live feed or CCTV to ensure that there is no imminent danger or notify the emergency services if necessary.

“The incorporation of smart security technology into the public domain is feasible and has enormous potential to save the lives of those at risk on the waterways of Galway,” the authors said.
To read the rest of this article, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here, or download the app for Android or iPhone.