Charity worker talks bridge woman out of jumping

This is the dramatic moment that a suicidal woman was persuaded out of killing herself.

Barbara Flynn-Southern had just delivered a parcel of goodies to doctors and nurses at Arrowe Park Hospital, in Wirral, to say thank you from The Port Grocery charity for their hard work during the pandemic when the drama occurred.

On her drive home she spotted an unnamed woman threatening to jump from a motorway bridge over the M53. 

Barbara, a community development director at Ellesmere Port-based charity The Port Grocery, spent two hours sitting with the woman before the drama was brought to a peaceful conclusion when the police arrived.

She said it highlights the negative impact Covid-19 and the extended lockdown has had on people’s mental health as all support groups, face-to-face meetings and general interaction have been halted due to the pandemic.

Just six weeks after the bridge drama, the 57-year-old lifesaver was called into action again when a man in Ellesmere Port threatened to kill himself.

Barbara, who is pictured on the right with her back to the camera, recalled: “I took a call from a gentleman in his 30s to say he had no food. He had underlying health conditions which affected his mental health but 10 minutes later he phoned back to say he couldn’t do it anymore and was going to kill himself.

“I continued to talk to him on the mobile phone whilst I collected two other members of the team to drive me to the address to try and talk this young man out of suicide, thankfully again this was a success. We have regular conversations through The Port Grocery healthcare line. We also have a food delivery every week to ensure he does not go into food poverty and also it facilitates a chance to check up on him.  

“Up until Covid-19 the gentleman had coping mechanisms to deal with his health problems but the lockdown meant he wasn’t allowed outside and added to the feeling of isolation and pushed him over the edge.

Dealing with two suicide threats in six weeks and the countless distressed calls we’re receiving highlights the impact Covid-19 is having on people’s mental health.”

The Port Grocery charity received £45,730 from the Steve Morgan Foundation’s Covid-19 Emergency Fund, which has helped them deliver 250,000 meals to the most vulnerable people during the pandemic.

The charity tackles food waste and food poverty by providing affordable options but had to pivot when Covid-19 struck so they could deliver food to the people who needed it.

Rita Lewis, who is one of the founders of the Ellesmere Port charity, said: “We deliver food five days a week but we collect food seven days a week that would otherwise go to landfill sites from local supermarkets.

“We’re helping over 2,000 people a week and it’s a massive logistical operation. We’re doing three times the amount of work we were doing before the pandemic and we couldn’t do that without our team of volunteers.”

Rita said their work is transforming people’s lives.

“Some of the people we’re helping are end-of-life,” she said. “We’re not getting everything perfect. You try it and if it doesn’t work we change it. At the start of this process we didn’t know we’d have to start home delivery, we didn’t know how many emergency referrals we would receive or how much food we would have to buy in. 

“Thanks to the Steve Morgan Foundation we’ve been able to distribute 105 tonnes of food. We’ve had 75 referrals of vulnerable residents from GP’s surgeries and have 47 volunteer drivers.

“There is still a massive job to be done especially around mental health. Covid-19 is tipping people over the edge. What Barbara did in helping two suicidal people in six weeks is amazing and highlights the size of the problem.”

  • To contact the Samaritans call for free on 116 123.

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