Travel along the M60 circling Manchester and you’ll see there are several bridges with colourful notes dangling from them. Each note holds a valuable and heartfelt message encouraging people not to take their lives.
It’s a simple idea yet these messages hold so much power. Since the 10 June, the notes have been credited with saving 14 people (and counting).
Lisa Barnes, 46, works as a manager for British Gas by day and writes the heartfelt messages in her spare time. With the help of volunteers, including the local police, she has attached thousands of notes to 21 bridges. One of them carries as many as 400 written notes.
“It’s like wow, those little notes have saved 14 people,” Lisa, who lives in Hyde, Greater Manchester, tells HuffPost UK. “They are here now, walking around, where they possibly might not have been.”
Just this week, Lisa has received messages from three people who credited the notes with saving their lives. One mum, who wanted to remain anonymous, messaged her Facebook group saying: “I’ve suffered from depression and anxiety for years and I’ve had my bad days where I couldn’t cope anymore, one of them being on Sunday. I left my house at 5am and just drove in a state, crying my eyes out along the M60 thinking of where I could do ‘it’.”
The woman said it seemed as though every bridge had the messages on, which helped change her mind. She then drove home to her partner and one-year-old son. “The thought of leaving my son without a mummy after thinking about them and knowing that the next day would be completely different led me to still being here,” she wrote. “So thank you so much.”
“Today you stopped me taking my own life. Thank you for all your hard work,” another person messaged to say. “I’ve felt low and thought of silly things and going to these bridges makes you stop and think.”
Lisa knows all too well how fragile a person’s mental state can become. She experienced suicidal thoughts last year and found herself on a bridge not far from home. “If it can happen to me - and I’ve got a job, a family, a husband - then it can happen to anybody,” she says. “And it came on so quickly. It’s scary how someone can go from being fairly ok to taking such drastic measures.”
At the height of her struggles - and while on a long waiting list for counselling - Lisa found solace in reading. Quotes really resonated, and one that particularly hit home read: “Suicide doesn’t take the pain away, it just gives it to somebody else.”
One year later, Lisa came across a nearby bridge which was closed off as someone else had died by suicide. On returning home, she began writing messages which she wanted to fasten to the bridge to prevent other lives from being lost.
“On 10 June [this year] we decorated our first bridge - the police were there and I was there,” Lisa recalls. “People were saying it was a really nice idea and then we started getting messages asking us to do other bridges.”
The 46-year-old, who named her campaign ‘Bridge The Gap’, says she believes the notes help people because they are personal and handwritten.
“I’ve been there in that place, I know exactly how they’re feeling when they’re on that bridge,” she says. “Every single message is written with meaning and from the heart.”
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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: email@example.com