Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission to Install Barrier on the MacDonald Bridge

Thanks to Mr. Steve Snider the CEO of the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission for finally moving to install a barrier that will substantially increase the difficulty of completing suicide from the MacDonald Bridge.

Many large cities have a “favoured” location to which individuals contemplating suicide congregate. In Halifax-Dartmouth, the MacDonald Bridge is one of those places. The fact that it is conveniently close to a major mental health facility only serves to accentuate its importance in this problem.

Since the impetus to complete suicide often waxes and wanes, actions that can substantially delay the final act leading to suicide may deter the suicidal individual from acting and may increase the probability of choosing life instead. Indeed, many people who have decided not to complete suicide or who have survived a suicide attempt go on to live positive and productive lives and when reflecting on their suicide considerations are very pleased that they did not go through with their plans. Restriction of lethal means is one of the few public health measures that have been associated with decreasing suicide rates. Although method substitution is technically possible, research studies have not been able to demonstrate a clear pattern of this occurring when a bridge barrier is erected. So is it likely that putting up a barrier on the MacDonald Bridge will save lives? Probably. Will it send a clear message of concern for this important health issue? Totally! Is it about time this happened? Absolutely!

Actually, important as the role that Mr. Snider had in moving this agenda forward, the true heroes of the story are Carol Cashen and a concerned group of citizens and mental health advocates. As many residents of Halifax-Darthmouth Ms. Cashen is a public health nurse and the mother of a young man who took his life by jumping from the MacDonald Bridge. Together with other members of the community , with the input of the Canadian Mental Health Association and with responsible print and electronic media reporting Carol and the citizens of Halifax-Dartmouth were able to accomplish what the professionals and government were not able to do. They have made the difference. They are the people we all have to be thankful to.

Dr. Stan Kutcher 

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