Suicide prevention group offers help over Orwell Bridge 'concerns for safety' uptick

Cancer patient Olle Nash has arrived home after sailing around Britain on Renegade. Picture: Sarah

The Orwell Bridge on the A14 in Suffolk - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A suicide prevention group that walks "distressed hotspots" has offered to provide help to mental health charities concerned about the Orwell Bridge. 

The A14 bridge in Suffolk had 188 "concern for safety" incidents in 299 days up to October 27 this year, an increase from 163 call-outs in 2020, which was up from 110 in 2019. 

And the Bearded Fishermen in Lincolnshire - where the Humber Bridge has seen similar issues -has explained how it has learned lessons from its success in helping those that need emotional support during their nighttime patrols, which started in October 2020, and what they can do to help Suffolk on this issue. 

Rick Roberts and Mick Leyland

Rick Roberts and Mick Leyland - Credit: Bearded Fishermen

Rick Roberts, chairman of Bearded Fishermen Charity, said: "We've saved a lot of lives this year. 

"We pinpointed local areas of interest together with our team and looked into the prime times that people [in emotional distress] go out between 7pm to 9pm. 

"We can't be there 24/7 but we generally see more police and people during the day out and about.

"You would be surprised the number of people that want support and do not ask for it and we give them lots of information about how they can get help.

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"We can help those charities that need it in Suffolk and are happy to go down. 

"We want to push this idea nationally."

Bearded Fishermen out doing night patrols

Bearded Fishermen out doing night patrols - Credit: Bearded Fishermen

The charity depends on donations and its volunteers, who have been through suicide prevention training, provide support. 

The Humber Bridge was temporarily closed to the public following mental health incidents earlier this year.

A wellbeing portacabin was installed in May 2021 along with more CCTV and pedestrians and cyclists are only able to use it between 5am and 9pm.

Emma Hardy MP

Emma Hardy MP - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography/House of Commons Official Portraits

Emma Hardy, MP for Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle, has pushed for barriers on the bridge and is now waiting for the results of a feasibility study as the weight could have impacts on the suspension bridge. 

Ms Hardy said the Orwell Bridge seems to not have the same structural issue and said there is no reason National Highways could not do its own study. 

"The Orwell Bridge seems very different," she clarified. 

"The Bearded Fisherman have been able to reach and assist distressed individuals," she added. "It has really improved."

The Clifton Suspension Bridge has been shown to have its deaths lowered due to barriers being installed. The British Journal of Psychiatry said rates of suicide had fallen in the 1990s due to this change. 

If you need help and support, call Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust’s First Response helpline 0808 196 3494 or the Samaritans on 116 123. Both services are available 24 hours 7 days a week. You can also download the Stay Alive app on Apple & Android.

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