If you are reading this because you are having suicidal thoughts, try to ask someone for help. It may be difficult at this time, but it's important to know you are not beyond help and you are not alone.

Samaritans (08457 90 90 90) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you are feeling, or if you are worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at jo@samaritans.org.

FAQs

Campaigners Louisa Harvey and Pamela Harling collecting signatures for our petition.

Q. If people can’t jump from the bridge, won’t they just go elsewhere?

A. No. In Bern, Switzerland, the Muenster Terrace, a well-known suicide spot was fitted with a net. There have been no deaths at this spot since, nor have suicides from surrounding high structures increased [1].

Q. If people want to kill themselves, shouldn’t they be allowed to?

A. Although not all suicides can ever be prevented, we believe that society has a duty of care to look after the most vulnerable people. This includes people who are suffering from acute mental distress to the extent that they wish to end their lives.

Furthermore, in jumping from the Hornsey Lane Bridge, suicidal people also risk the lives of others, as the bridge spans the busy A1. People in cars, on foot and on bicycles are constantly passing beneath the bridge and could easily be killed by someone jumping from the structure.

It has also been reported that ‘suicide attempts are often impulsive, crises are fleeting, prognosis is good after non-fatal attempts (less than 10% of people go on to die), and acts are more likely to be fatal when highly lethal methods are used.’ [2]

Q. How can the council be expected to spend £95k plus VAT on an anti-suicide net at a time of financial cuts?

From a financial point of view, Haringey Council would actually be saving money by installing an anti-suicide net. Every time someone jumps there is the closure of the road to pay for, the police time, the clean-up operation, the coroner’s inquest and report, plus on-going counselling for family, friends and witnesses. Indeed, a Scottish study from 2006 estimated the cost of each suicide to be at £1.29 million [3].

Furthermore, the designer of the net believes that the cost could be considerably lower than £95k plus VAT, as this is just an estimated amount.

Q. How does this anti-suicide net work?

Secured by four ‘anchors’, the net will cover the entire surface area under the bridge, sticking our three metres on either side of the structure. Similar to nets used on building sites and under electricity pylons when they are being serviced, it would catch anyone who jumped from the bridge. The remaining drop from the net to the road would not be enough to kill someone.

The very act of fitting an anti-suicide net would mean that the spot would no longer be attractive to suicidal people, and deaths at the bridge would cease.

Q. What methods have been put in place at other suicide spots?

At the Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol, barriers and CCTV have been used in conjunction with vigilant staff. When the staff spot someone testing the barriers or behaving in another suspicious manner, they intervene. Once that human interaction has taken place it is very rare for a person to jump.

Having a permanent member of staff in place on the Hornsey Lane Bridge would be very expensive, certainly in comparison to the one-off cost of an anti-suicide net, which is the reason we haven’t suggested this solution.

In Bern, Switzerland, the Muenster Terrace, a well-known suicide spot was fitted with a net. There have been no deaths at this spot since, nor have suicides from surrounding high structures increased.

Q. Who would pay for the Freephone?

There has been a generous offer from a member of the public to fund the Freephone for the first year of its existence. This would enable us to ascertain how useful a tool this would be in suicide prevention. After the first year has elapsed we would expect the costs to be covered by the Samaritans, perhaps shared by Haringey Council.

Q. What has the council’s reaction been to your campaign?

A. We had wanted a meeting with the council, together with English Heritage, the Samaritans, SANE, the police, the local health trust, BT (responsible for the pay phone) and the net designers, Teutonic Global. However, most of these bodies were not informed about a meeting that reportedly took place in February. We only found out that this meeting had taken place several months down the line and after much chasing. The council decided to take ‘no further action’, concluding that the measures in place at the bride – the high railings – were enough, despite the three deaths in almost as many weeks proving that this is not the case.

The council also came to many erroneous conclusions – that a suicide net could be jumped over (it couldn’t – the designer took that into account) – and that there is a Freephone number people can call (there isn’t – that’s one of the things we are campaigning for!).

We did a Freedom of Information (FOI) Request, asking for the minutes of the meeting, only to be told that minutes were not taken. We then asked for a list of attendees and action points and were told that this did not exist either. A request for an internal review into the way the FOI requests were handled resulted in us being given more information, but as we had to go such a length to get information which should have been freely available we are now putting the issue in the hands of the Information Commissioner's Office.

Q. What has the reaction been of local people to the campaign?

A. We have received a lot of positive feedback from both individuals and from mental health organisations in the area. Whilst collecting signatures for our petition , we have met people who have been directly affected by the deaths at the bridge. Some had intervened to stop people jumping, some knew people who had died at this spot, and others had witnessed deaths through suicide and had been traumatised by the experience. Other still had suffered suicidal urges or had attempted suicide. All agreed that steps should be taken to prevent further deaths at ‘Suicide Bridge’.

Here is a selection of comments left by people who have signed our petition:

My stepson jumped from this bridge so I know first-hand the catastrophic effect of suicide by this means.’ SDJ, London

I know personally of two families who have suffered the tragedy and pain of losing young sons through suicide from this bridge. If a Samaritans contact number being available saved just one life, it would be worthwhile.’ SR, London

This is both a compassionate and pragmatic way forward - as opposed to doing nothing.’ JC, London

As a clinical psychologist and as the mother of a daughter whose friend died jumping from Suicide Bridge, I urge you to spend this relatively modest sum of money on saving many future valuable lives.’ SM, London

This bridge was a problem when I was a resident back in the 50s and 60s. A net seems to be a good counter measure.’ AH, Ilford.

As a Consultant Psychiatrist I support this - there are many who attempt suicide and are saved regret it later- this preventative action which is simple and effective will save many lives.’ DLB, London

I completely agree with all three of the measures recommended and the argument for them - it is irresponsible of the Local Authority not to address these matters - they would be forced to do so if the deaths were of children so are adults so expendable.’ BR, London

Even putting the human cost to one side, it is incredibly short-sighted not to see the potential cost savings by installing measures such as these, which stems from a mistakenly pessimistic view of the potential to save lives. Anything which can interrupt or delay suicide creates the possibility of a change of mind.’ AB, Machynlleth

[1] The National Institute of Mental Health in England (NIMHE): (http://www.nmhdu.org.uk/silo/files/guidance-on-action-to-be-taken-at-suicide-hotspots.pdf), p.10

[2] ‘Strategies to prevent suicide’ by D Gunnell and M Miller, from ‘The British Medical Journal’, 24th July 2010 (vol. 341), p.15

[3] ‘An Economic Perspective on Suicide across the five continents’ by David McDaid and Brendan Kennelly, from ‘The Oxford Textbook of Suicidology and Suicide Prevention: A Global Perspective’, edited by Danuta Wasserman and Camilla Wasserman (2009), p.360

 

Sign Our Petition

If you, like us, believe that these needless deaths have gone on too long, please sign our petition:

http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/anti-suicide-measures-at-the-hornsey-lane-bridge-n6.html

A paper version of the petition is available here (insert) if you would like to gather signatures for our campaign. Please see ‘contact us’ for details of where to send completed petitions.