Suicide barriers on High Level Bridge not helping: report
Despite measures taken by the city to prevent suicides on the High Level Bridge, the number of times Edmonton police are called there suggest those measures aren’t working.
At a cost of $7 million, the city installed barriers along the historic bridge in 2016, in an attempt to make it more difficult and give those contemplating suicide, time to re-think the decision.
“I’m sure there were lives saved by the fact we put up that barrier, but we’re still seeing those sort of troubling numbers of calls for service,” said Scott McKeen, Ward 6 councillor.
In 2015, before the barriers were installed, there were 121 “people in crisis” calls on the bridge. That number decreased when the barriers went up to 104 calls. In 2017, there were 114 calls, and from January to October last year, there were 84 calls.
“When we’re there on those calls, many times they can be from minutes if we’re really successful in speaking, to multiple hours,” said Acting Police Chief Greg Preston.
He said the high volume of calls is proving costly. “This really is a mental health issue so it requires partnerships with other agencies.”
There are emergency phones at the bridge that connect to 9-1-1, but one suicide prevention expert said that’s not enough.
“If there’s a suicide attempt in progress, 911 is the right place, but if you have someone pacing on the bridge they may do better with a social worker,” said Mara Grunau of the Suicide Prevention Centre.
Grunau applauds the measures taken by the city so far.
“There’s a lot of complexity here, we can’t just count calls, that’s not enough to get a real accurate picture of what’s going on,” she said.
She is confident the barriers, in combination with other measures, could work.
The police commission passed a motion to work with the city on other suicide prevention strategies where the barriers appear to have failed.
With files from Jeremy Thompson