September 2, 2015 10:13 am

High Level Bridge barriers being installed to deter Edmonton suicides

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WATCH ABOVE: Michel Boyer reports about the bridge barriers live on the Morning News.

EDMONTON — Barriers have started going up on the High Level Bridge in an effort to prevent people from jumping off the Edmonton landmark.

The Support Network, which helps individuals in the Edmonton region deal with crisis situations, played a big part in getting the new barriers approved by city council.

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Director of Programs Jennifer Jones says taking away the bridge as an option for suicide will make a big difference because it’s currently “sort of a destination place for people to attempt to take their lives.”

The 102-year-old bridge’s dark history was the subject of a 2010 short film. It begins with filmmaker Trevor Anderson saying, “It’s where people who live in Edmonton go when we’re finally ready to kill ourselves,” before dropping his camera from the bridge in memory of those who have jumped.

Emergency call boxes have also been installed on the bridge with a direct line to either the Support Network or police.

“I know that the phones are functional and that they’ve been doing a little bit of testing to make sure that they’ll work really well to meet the needs of emergency service responders,” says Jones.

Last summer, the City of Edmonton released images of three physical barriers it was considering: a chain link fence option at a cost of $1.1 million, a horizontal tension cable barrier for $3 million, and a $7.4 million vertical stainless steel tension cable and a hollow steel frame option.

In December 2014, city council approved the middle option, which will be built around the existing guardrails.

Last year, Edmonton police said it sees a spike in the number of suicide-related incidents it responds to on the bridge around Christmas and in the spring. During those times, the force said it responds to one to two calls every week.

Starting September 8th and continuing until June 2016, there will be intermittent closures of the sidewalks on either side of the High Level while crews install the safety rails. During the closures, signs will be in place to detour pedestrians and cyclists to the open side of the bridge.

WATCH: An Edmonton father is putting a face to the serious problem of suicide on the High Level Bridge. Kendra Slugoski explains why he believes the bridge made it too easy for his son to take his own life. 

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal, please call the Crisis Support Centre’s 24-hour distress line at 780-482-HELP (4357). The distress line is available 24/7 and is supplemented by Online Crisis Chat.

With files from Caley Ramsay, Global News and 630 CHED.

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