Fury at plan to take down mes­sages of hope on city bridge linked to sui­cides

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY DONNA DEENEY

A WOMAN whose brother died by sui­cide has branded a rec­om­men­da­tion to re­move ‘mes­sages of hope’ from Foyle Bridge as “dis­gust­ing”.

Katie Logue, twin sis­ter of Nathan Logue (24), whose body was re­turned to his fam­ily from the river in Septem­ber, said she was hor­ri­fied to learn a Civic Fo­rum set up to ad­dress sui­cide in Lon­don­derry wanted the mes­sages taken down.

The Pub­lic Health Agency which is the lead body on the Civic Fo­rum along with the West­ern Trust, PSNI, Ul­ster Univer­sity and Derry’s City Cen­tre Ini­tia­tive said the notes are caus­ing a dis­trac­tion to “im­por­tant sur­veil­lance work”.

The rec­om­men­da­tion was dis­cussed at a Derry and Stra­bane Coun­cil com­mit­tee meet­ing on Thurs­day where it was agreed to hold off from re­mov­ing them to al­low a 12 week pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion progress.

The mes­sages of hope — which in­clude con­tact num­bers for help for peo­ple who are feel­ing sui­ci­dal — were first put along the Foyle Bridge last July at the same time as a Face­book page with the same name was launched.

Speak­ing to the Belfast Tele­graph, Ms Logue said: “I can­not un­der­stand how any­one could think these mes­sages should be taken down.

“They of­fer hope and an al­ter­na­tive to peo­ple who are at their low­est ebb along with where to get im­me­di­ate help. How is that a bad thing?

“I think it is dis­gust­ing that the au­thor­i­ties are try­ing to de­stroy some­thing that came from or­di­nary peo­ple of Derry who are try­ing to do some­thing for peo­ple like my brother.

“Some­thing needs to be done to save peo­ple from sui­cide and at least these mes­sages are from peo­ple who are ac­tu­ally try­ing to just that,” she said.

The ini­tia­tive was first set up by lo­cal sup­ply teacher Gary Clarke who came up with the idea through his work with young peo­ple in the city, many of whom had mental health is­sues.

Mr Clarke said: “When I first heard there was a rec­om­men­da­tion to take the mes­sages down, I was dev­as­tated and re­ally couldn’t un­der­stand why be­cause the idea came out of sto­ries I read about how sim­i­lar mes­sages posted on bridges in other places were sav­ing lives.

“Sui­cide is a big is­sue for a lot of peo­ple and my job as a sup­ply teacher to six dif­fer­ent schools in Derry puts me in con­tact with young peo­ple up to the age of 18 and see­ing them not be­ing able to talk about their prob­lem re­ally made me think.

“Since July, when I set up the Face­book page Mes­sages of Hope and tag­ging the mes­sages to the Foyle Bridge, the re­ac­tion I have had has been in­cred­i­ble. Peo­ple who have lost fam­ily mem­bers to sui­cide and peo­ple con­cerned about the num­ber of sui­cides in Derry have been so pos­i­tive and I have had mes­sages from peo­ple who said they were feel­ing low but the mes­sages helped them walk off the bridge,” Mr Clarke added.

“As soon as peo­ple be­came aware the mes­sages could come down I have been in­un­dated with calls from peo­ple who all want the mes­sages to stay where they are and who have been telling me if they come down, more will go back.”

The 12-week con­sul­ta­tion pro­gramme was agreed as a way to in­form the pub­lic of why the fo­rum wants the mes­sages taken off the Foyle Bridge rail­ings and to al­low the pub­lic to reg­is­ter their thoughts on the is­sue.

A spokesman for the Civic Fo­rum said: “We have re­flected care­fully on all as­pects of this is­sue and sought ad­vice from ex­perts.

“This has led to a united de­ci­sion to re­move these items, and any sim­i­lar items placed there in the fu­ture.

“The items them­selves and the be­hav­iour of those peo­ple who stopped to en­gage with them was cre­at­ing sig­nif­i­cant dif­fi­cul­ties for those in­volved in im­por­tant sur­veil­lance work.

“Our ser­vices have also re­ceived nu­mer­ous calls from the gen­eral pub­lic con­cerned about the ori­gin of the items and, since we treat ev­ery re­port very se­ri­ously, this dis­tracts our or­gan­i­sa­tions from keep­ing the pub­lic safe,” the spokesman added.

Gary Clarke who set up the ini­tia­tive on Derry’s Foyle Bridge and (be­low) some of the mes­sages left by peo­ple on thebridge rail­ings

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