Suicide is a leading cause of death in our city. In 2014, 124 people committed suicide in Edmonton. With even more attempting suicide and hundreds more thinking about going through with it, it’s clear that suicide is a pressing public health issue that affects us all. It’s not an easy subject to discuss, but it requires our immediate attention.
Installing safety barriers and phones for emergency situations on the High Level Bridge was a key action taken by the City of Edmonton. It was in City Council chambers in 2014 through discussion of the High Level Bridge safety barriers that the suicide prevention strategy was born.
The discussion identified the need for an aligned and coordinated approach towards suicide prevention in Edmonton. Diverse stakeholders were then invited to participate in an advisory committee to develop the strategy. Representatives include the City of Edmonton, Alberta Health Services, community agencies, business, the University of Alberta and first responders. A collaborative approach was taken to ensure alignment with existing initiatives, and to integrate diverse areas of expertise. The strategy will be complete and taken to Community Services Committee on September 12, 2016.
The barriers mark the beginning of something much bigger – a city that has taken an epidemic very seriously and is dedicated to drastically reducing the number of suicide attempts and deaths in our community.
Safety barriers are a proven method of suicide prevention and have been highly effective in cities including Bristol, England and Melbourne, Australia. Since suicide is sometimes an impulsive act, a physical barrier can act as a deterrent, giving a moment of pause or second thought to those that may be suicidal. Similar barriers have reduced suicides by 50 – 85 per cent across the world.
In addition to the barriers, a meaningful approach to suicide prevention requires public action. Your help is needed to grow the conversation – destigmatize mental health, understand risk factors and know what supports are available. Take part in the collective responsibility to ensure that each person is equipped to seek the help they need.
As citizens of a compassionate city, we all share a role in educating, increasing hope and promoting healing in order to prevent suicide in our city. If you see someone in distress, use the resources available to you to reach out and help.
The City is always concerned about the safety of everyone on the bridge. We are conducting an audit to ensure it continues to be a safe place. We appreciate everyone’s understanding as we work through this. The barriers are a meaningful and a proven approach to significantly prevent tragedy in our City.