Fears over suicide increase as recession goes on biting

IPSWICH: As the recession continues to bite, there are fears the number of suicides across east Suffolk will be the highest for many years.

Already the number of deaths from people jumping from the Orwell Bridge is higher in 2010 than it has been for some time – and the Samaritans fear the total number of suicides in the area will also increase.

But Joanna Bell, from the Samaritans, said the perception that many people chose to commit suicide at the Orwell Bridge was not accurate.

She said: “People hear about them when someone jumps from the bridge. And in the past there has been a tendency for one suicide there to be followed up in a sort of copycat fashion.

“But in fact the figures don’t show that to be a major way that people commit suicide in this area.”

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In 2007, two people died after jumping from the bridge. A year later, no-one jumped from the bridge and in 2009 there was one person who died in the same way.

However, there have been three deaths at the bridge this year – two in a fortnight – which has highlighted its grim reputation.

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The number of suicides in the Ipswich area has varied over the years – in 2007, there were nine recorded suicides, in 2008 13, last year nine and this year the indications are that the number will be considerably higher than that.

Mrs Bell added: “There are more suicides that are in a much more private setting [rather than the Orwell Bridge].”

She felt it was important to deter people from using the bridge because of its symbolic status. The Samaritans has installed telephones with their number printed at each end of the bridge and the police make regular patrols and challenge anyone seen walking on the bridge.

“Maybe more could be done to stop people getting on to the bridge. Perhaps gates could be installed on the footpath that was installed when the bridge was built,” Mrs Bell said.

“We have the phones there but today most people have mobiles anyway and I fear that, once someone has gone to the bridge, then their mind is made up. They are very focused by that stage.”

Mrs Bell said it was difficult to rationalise with someone whose mind was made up.

“Anyone who stops to consider the consequences, the impact on those they leave behind and the cost to society would probably walk away from such an extreme act.

“But for people who reach that position, they are very focused and can really only see one way out. And it is not easy to talk people around from that if they are determined,” she warned.

The 24-hour Samaritan helpline is 08457 90 90 90.

n Is enough done to prevent suicides? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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