A mental health campaigner says she has been left “absolutely devastated” after a council pulled down more than 150 “notes of hope” tied to a bridge.
Musketts Way footbridge over the Bromsgrove Highway in Redditch has seen more than 43 recorded incidents of suicide, or people attempting to take their own life, in the last 10 years.
Katie Houghton and a small team of volunteers had attached the heartfelt messages to the railings of the bridge to help provide comfort to anyone considering suicide, but they were taken down just three later.
Worcestershire Council said the notes had been removed to avoid distracting motorists driving under the bridge.
Houghton, who organised the project and runs a website for people with mental health issues, had been inspired by others including Paige Hunter, who police commending for saving at least six lives by tying notes to a bridge in Northumbria.
The campaigner, who has suffered mental health problems for more than 15 years including self harm, anorexia, OCD and bipolar disorder, said she was “absolutely gutted and angry” at the council’s actions.
She told HuffPost UK: “I saw that people were leaving notes on bridges around the country and decided to do it in my local area. The bridge is so notorious and so we had so much support from local people.
“There have been a lot of campaigns over the years to have it caged or have more safety measures but the council haven’t done anything.”
She said the project had taken four weeks of her time and she had personally written 150 notes, but the council had “torn them down” without getting in touch with her.
“Nobody contacted me whatsoever. They just went up and took them all down. I was absolutely devastated. There are Samaritans signs at the beginning and end of the bridge but they are quite easy to miss and they are quite old now.
“I just felt that from someone who has been suicidal myself, a handwritten note with a meaningful perspective form someone who has felt that way to somebody else who is feeling that way could have more of an impact.
“Every single note that I wrote was from my own perspective to someone in that position knowing how it feels. It was actually really emotional doing 150 of them.”
She added that it was a shame her notes were taken down while others in different parts of the country had had no issues with their local councils.
“I have spoken to others who have done it. They have just had praise,” she said.
Houghton has launched a petition calling for permission to hang the notes on the bridge and said she “won’t be letting it go”.
She added: “If one of the notes could help just one person then it will be worth it and it’s been proven by Paige [Hunter] that it can save lives.”
A spokeswoman for Worcestershire County Council said: “In order to avoid distractions to motorists and reduce the risk of accidents it’s our policy to remove any unauthorised signs and posters from the highway.
“There is advice and guidance from the Samaritans on display close to the bridge. The council is working closely with partners, including from Redditch, on a Suicide Prevention Plan.”
The spokesperson added that a Time to Change hub has recently been established in Worcestershire to encourage people to talk more openly and reduce the stigma around mental health.
Useful websites and helplines:
- Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
- Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
- The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org