Here's why the motorway bridge messages are saving lives

Reporter: Martha Southall
Date published: 07 August 2018

If you’ve driven along Oldham Road over the M60 in Hollinwood lately, then you will have seen that the bridge is adorned with ribbons and notes.  

Although small, the messages they carry are saving lives.

Lisa Barnes’ struggle with mental health and potential overdose had led her to be standing on a bridge, contemplating taking her own life.

Luckily, she was helped by police support officers and a negotiator who referred her to counselling sessions.

It was on June 10 that she decided to say ‘enough’ to the thought of suicide.

Inspired by her own struggle and the suffering of those on a ‘hotspot bridge’ near to her Tameside home, Lisa decided that it was time to bridge the gap between mental health issues and the help on offer.

Lisa and her husband created the Bridge the Gap page on Facebook and began their lifesaving campaign.

They started on the very bridge that Lisa had found help on, covering it in simple but powerful messages – ‘the world is much better with you in it’, ‘breath, step back, you are loved’, ‘just because you are struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing’ – in the hope that they may change the mind of someone contemplating ending their life.

Since the project started, they have decorated 15 bridges across the country, and Lisa has revealed that the response has been overwhelming.

She said: “We get everything. When it first started we had inboxes saying things like ‘I’m in this dark place and I am going to take my life’ and we would help and signpost them to others.

“We get people who have jumped off bridges and survived, family members of people who have committed suicide, people who know someone who has, and people who say ‘tonight you saved my life’.

“It’s working. It has saved 10 people that we know of, and they’re the ones who get in touch or who other services tell us about.”

The notes themselves - including the ones in Hollinwood (above) - have the phone numbers for support services such as the Samaritans, but for Lisa it is important that they remain personal.

She added: “I don’t want to change from the handwritten messages.

“We’ve thought about permanent signs, but they’d have to be printed and aren’t as personal.”

Each new location is posted on the Facebook group and locals are invited to join in decorating each bridge with comforting messages.

Their JustGiving page has already raised 50-per-cent more than its target, just one example of the support and need for such a precious campaign.

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