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Let’s hope safety measures put an end to ‘suicide bridge’ tag

11 August, 2017

Protesters at Archway Bridge calling for anti-suicide measures

• HUGE thanks to all the doctors from Whittington A&E, psychiatrists, vicars, councillors, community activists, MP Catherine West and concerned residents in the Archway area who were able to protest at Archway bridge calling for anti-suicide measures.

So many people there had awful experiences of suicides – and attempted suicides – at the bridge.

Transport for London and Haringey and Islington councils are working together, using footage from recently installed CCTV cameras linked to emergency services, to improve the design of anti-suicide barriers. They are also working with the Samaritans on better signage.

Assessing medical evidence and gleaning conclusions from stats is probably best done by those trained to do so. Medical experts at the bridge protest pointed out that the medical evidence is overwhelming, which is why they supported the protest.

Feeling suicidal is frequently a temporary state of mind (some victims are on drugs, for example). Prevention measures in public places not only reduce suicides in those places, but those potential victims only rarely simply find somewhere else.

This is not simply the expert view from their reading of the evidence of the successful anti-suicide measures at Bristol’s suspension bridge.

In September 2015 the highly-respected medical journal, The Lancet, looked at 17 statistical studies of anti-suicide measures at “suicide hotspots” all over the world (from bridges fitted with anti-suicide measures in New Zealand, New York State, the UK and Australia to fitting screen doors on the Hong Kong underground).

Overall, “restricting access to means” is usually successful while they found the evidence
for other measures (for example, one-to-one intervention) is “equivocal”.

Obviously, all anti-suicide measures should be set up, resources permitting, but those most likely to be effective are the most important.

No anti-suicide measure is perfect, but for the sake of the families and loved ones of the victims (who will suffer for many years after the event) the authorities should do all we can.

Anyone who has further evidence of where suicide may be possible from the bridge and the best measures for the bridge should continue to send this to the authorities. I am happy to forward any evidence and can be contacted at david.poyser@islington.gov.uk

On the subject of Anthony Crawford’s letter (Building giant fences will just mean suicides will happen elsewhere, August 4), there have been no “finger-wagging” public meetings.

Calling anti-suicide measures “Guantanamo style” and “horrendous” is somewhat emotive. Electronic devices to prevent suicide are untested – the evidence they provide could well be too late for the emergency services and frequently inaccurate.

There are already ineffective anti-suicide measures on the Victorian bridge. It is sad, aesthetically, that these need to be updated but there are anti-suicide measures in “hotspots” all over the world.

We must hope that the new measures will be successful and our landmark bridge will once again be known as Archway Bridge and not its recent name, “suicide bridge”.

CLLR DAVE POYSER
Labour councillor, Hillrise ward

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