Why support messages along North Bridge could be pulled down

Calderdale Council leaders will hold further discussions with qualified colleagues to whether handwritten messages tied to North Bridge will be taken down.

Messages of hope on North Bridge.
Messages of hope on North Bridge.

Recently cards with contact details for the Samaritans had been tied to the bridge but this week a range of cards carrying messages aimed at steering people away from suicide have been placed there by Manchester based project Bridge The Gap.

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With three people taking their own lives at North Bridge in the last year, a coroner’s letter had also urged the council to consider immediate physical safety measures as well as a longer term plan.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet this week approved spending around £200,000 on physical measures to help stop people taking their own lives at North Bridge.

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Councillor Paul Bellinger (Liberal Democrat, Greetland and Stainland) spoke about the placards from the Bridge The Gap project which contained positive, motivational notes.

He had heard the council was going to remove them but asked that the council let them stay in place.

“I can’t see them doing any harm, I can see them doing more good than not,” he said.

Councillor Jane Scullion (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said she had very mixed views about the messages. They were heartwarming but the council wanted to stop structures in its directives from becoming a destination for suicide.

“I applaud the sentiment but don’t really know if it is the right think to do,” she said.

Councillor Dan Sutherland (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) agreed and said care had to be taken. The Samaritans notices had offered the chance for people to be able to talk with someone there to listen.

Coun Bellinger asked what the difference was between the Samaritans messages and notes urging people not to take their own life.

Summarising, Cabinet chair, leader of the council Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) suggested that as with the report into physical measures, the council could take advice from qualified colleagues. They should look at evaluating the messages and come back and advise all members on what good practice should be.

Bridge The Gap was started earlier this year by Lisa Barnes, who last year considered taking her own life but was talked down from a bridge in Tameside by a counsellor.

Lisa has said in press interviews she wants to remind people they are not alone with the messages indicating people do care and have taken the time to reach out.

She feels had the counsellor not been there seeing similar messages would have helped her.

Bridge The Gap have so far put similar streams of messages on 15 bridges where people have previously taken their own lives, including North Bridge and Scammonden.