New signs on Occoquan River bridge aim to deter suicides

Photo- Trillium Center

A set of new signs installed on the bridge carrying traffic over the Occoquan River aim to deliver a powerful message: you’re better off alive than dead.

Valentine’s Day was very special for some mental health advocates in Prince William this year. After months of hard work, suicide prevention signs were installed on the Occoquan Bridge on Route 123.

This has been a community effort. Andrea Hess, from Prince William Community Services (PWCS), expressed concern about so many people having made suicide attempts from that location. Immediately alarmed, Cynthia Dudley from Trillium Center reached out to former Prince William County Supervisor Ruth Anderson. Jacob Mosser from Anderson’s office took the lead with the Virginia Department of Transportation and the Prince William Department of Transportation. Dudley brought Hess and other community leaders, Heather Martinsen (PWCS) and Vicki Graham from Action in Community Through Service of Prince William, Inc. (ACTS)  to the table.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline “recognizes that ‘promoting access to lifesaving means’ — such as signage or other public education media near bridges that promotes awareness of hotlines (such as 273-TALK) or other suicide prevention services — is a supplement to bridge barriers.”

Kenny Allen Boddye, newly elected Occoquan Supervisor, stated in a press release, “I applaud the partnership between our county, advocates, neighboring Fairfax county, and other stakeholders who came together to ensure these signs were installed on the bridge. I look forward to working with our community to ensure we are doing everything we can to prevent suicide.”

Dudley says, “I am one grateful woman. Now to work with other BOCS to install more signs around the county where needed. Losing ONE person to suicide is not ok. Not ok one bit.”

According to the CDC, Suicide is a leading cause of death in the US. Suicide rates increased in nearly every state from 1999 through 2016. Mental health conditions are often seen as the cause of suicide, but suicide is rarely caused by any single factor.

In fact, many people who die by suicide are not known to have a diagnosed mental health condition at the time of death. Other problems often contribute to suicide, such as those related to relationships, substance use, physical health, and job, money, legal, or housing stress.

Making sure government, public health, healthcare, employers, education, the media and community organizations are working together is important for preventing suicide, states the CDC. Public health departments can bring together these partners to focus on comprehensive state and community efforts with the greatest likelihood of preventing suicide.

If you need help for yourself or someone else, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Talk: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) Chat: suicidepreventionlifeline.org

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