By Jessica Quinn, the Clare Champion
Ennis taxi drivers have helped save four people at risk of suicide, since getting involved in a pioneering suicide awareness initiative late last year.
As highlighted in The Clare Champion, drivers with AAA Taxis signed up to the Taxi Watch initiative last year, receiving training in how to identify and talk to people at risk. According to Trevor White of AAA this week, the training has saved the lives of our people in the county capital.
"At the time we first started looking into getting involved with the Taxi Watch initiative, we thought that if it just saved one life, it would be worth it. But four of our drivers have helped people in four separate instances," he revealed.
"Thankfully, in each case, the individual spoke to and felt comfortable enough to confide in the taxi driver that they were travelling with, after the driver had asked the correct questions when they felt something wasn't quite right. Further help and care was then given to each individual. In two of the cases, it was the family and, in the other two cases, it was professional help."
He praised the drivers for their commitment to the initiative, saying they have all embraced the training and what they are trying to achieve.
"Some of them were a bit apprehensive at first but they have been brilliant. They have really done us and the town proud. The safeTALK Suicide Alertness course our drivers took was definitely well worth it to help them recognise any signs of suicidal thoughts. Hopefully, going forward, we can help more people and get them the necessary help, if needed."
He explained that while he knows which drivers have been involved in saving the four lives, "each driver doesn't know who has helped someone. This is kept very private to ensure the confidentiality of the people they have helped."
Trevor spoke about the success of the programme in Ennis this week in a bid to make people more aware that the service is available. He is hoping that other drivers outside of AAA will get involved.
"It's been a year since myself and my wife took over the business and, when we started this last year, we never thought it would turn into an initiative that would save four lives. We want to keep this going here in Ennis and to let people know that there is support and help out there when they need it. It would be fantastic if other drivers got involved and took part in the training."
The Ennis drivers were the first outside of Kilkenny to be involved with Taxi Watch, originally started by Derek Devoy. According to Trevor, the success of Taxi Watch has now seen in roll out in Waterford and Clonmel.
Under the initiative, drivers took part in specific safeTALK "suicide alertness" training by the HSE to identify persons with thoughts of suicide and connect them to first aid resources. After completing the training, stickers were placed on the dashboards of the taxis, informing people that they can talk to the driver.
The safeTALK programme teaches specific skills and participants are taught with the expectation that the person learning them will use them to help reduce suicide risk in their communities. Participants learn how to provide practical help to persons with thoughts of suicide in only a few hours.