Edmonton

'Lifeline' notes adorn High Level Bridge suicide barriers

Dozens of anonymous paper notes flutter from the wires of suicide prevention barriers along Edmonton's High Level Bridge.

'It's bringing a little bit more use and purpose to the barriers that are currently in place'

Wooden boxes left at Edmonton's High Level Bride contain paper slips and small pens, along with instructions to leave a note on the bridge's suicide barriers. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

Dozens of anonymous paper notes fluttered from the wires of the suicide prevention barriers along Edmonton's High Level Bridge Thursday.

"As long as I live, you will be loved," reads one.

"Keep smiling," reads another, in what appears to be a child's handwriting. 

Carla Alexander walked past the notes with her one-year-old daughter. Alexander lost a friend to suicide when he jumped from the bridge a few years ago.

"He'll be missed," Alexander said.

"He struggled for a long time with depression and he decided that he was maybe just going to take a little vacation."

Carla Alexander lost a friend to suicide after he jumped from the High Level Bridge in Edmonton. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

Four wooden boxes, one at each pedestrian entrance to the bridge, hold blank note paper, small pens and string. Instructions inside the lids ask people to leave "lifelines for people contemplating suicide."

Alexander said she appreciates and respects the project, which is also on Facebook and other social media sites as "Highlevel Life Lines."

"When things are at their darkest, those little notes or those little sayings on the pavement, they make a difference," she said. 

Her late friend's spouse still walks the bridge often, Alexander added.

"I hope that they feel the same way," she said.

'Messages of compassion, healing and hope'

The person behind the project declined to give her name. In a message from the project's Facebook page, she wrote a group of her friends helped put up the first notes Tuesday night.

"This isn't connected to an organization in any way, it's just me as someone who lives in Edmonton and grew up here," she wrote.

It's so important to create spaces where people aren't alone.- Highlevel Life Lines project organizer

Three years ago, on May 2, the group lost a friend to suicide on the bridge, she said.

They designed a tribute that wouldn't damage the bridge or disrupt traffic. The boxes are attached with magnets and the yarn is made of cotton or wool so birds can use any loose pieces for nests.

"The intention wasn't to vandalize or damage public property," the project organizer wrote. 

"It's so important to create spaces where people aren't alone," she added.

Messages inside the four wooden boxes left on Edmonton's High Level Bridge encourage people to leave notes of 'compassion, healing and hope.' (Zoe Todd/CBC)

"The aim of this project is simple," reads a message in each box.

"Lifelines are for people contemplating suicide, for those left behind in the wake of suicide and for us all in this city of ours to have open conversations about something that is so often hidden."

The appearance of the notes coincides with the Canadian Mental Health Association's annual awareness week. This year's theme is "Get Loud," encouraging Canadians to talk about mental health.

'We can all cross this bridge together'

Edmonton city council approved suicide barriers for the High Level Bridge in 2014 after hearing personal stories from people who have lost loved ones to suicide or considered taking their own lives.

Fourteen suicides occurred on or near the bridge that year, according to the city's medical examiner.

In 2015, the city installed the $3-million safety barriers made of stainless-steel mesh and high-tension wires.

Naomi Cooper cycles across the bridge daily on her way to work. She first noticed the messages tied to the barriers early Thursday morning.

"It's nice to bring a little bit more love to it instead of the institutional wire and metal that we currently have," she said.

Cooper said the physical barriers don't go far enough to help people in distress.

"If somebody has their mind set to not cross the bridge, then they're not going to cross the bridge," she said.

"It's bringing a little bit more use and purpose to the barriers that are currently in place."

Cooper left her own message on the bridge and said she hopes other Edmontonians will add their support.

"We can all cross this bridge together."

If you are in distress and need help in Edmonton, the local distress line is 780-482-HELP (4357). (Zoe Todd/CBC)