EDMONTON, ALTA. - One year after safety barriers were built on the High Level Bridge, the number of suicide attempts from the bridge has dropped by 50 per cent.
"The safety barriers were installed to provide a moment of pause or a sober second thought for those who may be suicidal," said Kris Andreychuk, supervisor of community safety with the City of Edmonton, in a statement. "It's still too early to conclusively know what effect the barriers are having, but after following similar projects and research in other cities, we believe the barriers are acting as a deterrent to suicide."
Alberta Health Services EMS responded to five suicide attempts in 2016, compared to 10 attempts in 2015. Edmonton Police Service responded to 21 mental health occurrences in 2016, down from 41 occurrences in 2015.
"Suicide is a complicated issue. People who die by suicide or attempt suicide usually feel overwhelmed, hopeless, helpless, desperate and alone," said Ione Challborn, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association Edmonton. "The safety barriers are a key strategy to prevent suicides in Edmonton by allowing people to rethink their intent when they arrive at this landmark. The barriers show a level of care from the city, and the emergency phones on the bridge may act as a cue to reach out for help."
The City of Edmonton installed the safety barriers on the bridge as part of its suicide prevention strategy. Emergency phones were also set up for individuals in crisis and to encourage bystanders to call in if they see someone in distress.
Construction on the safety barriers began in September 2015 and was completed in July 2016.
Suicide is a leading cause of death in Edmonton.