Edmonton

'A powerful message': Suicide survivors, families to hold vigil on High Level Bridge

Jennifer Hope wants to bring some light to an Edmonton bridge with a long, dark history with suicide.

'I just want people to know that it's possible. And I want them to have that hope'

A vigil for victims of suicide will be held Tuesday night on the High Level Bridge. (CBC/Rick Bremness )

Jennifer Hope wants to bring some light to an Edmonton bridge long linked with suicide.

Hope will be among the mental health advocates leading the fourth annual Bridge of Life Walk across the High Level Bridge Tuesday night.

Attendees will walk across the bridge with lit candles before blowing out the flames at sunset. 

The procession is intended to honour the memory of those who have died by suicide while raising awareness about mental health. 

"Unfortunately [the bridge] is the most well known place for suicides here in our city so it was a very easy spot to pick for that reason," said Hope, a co-chair with YEG Mental Health.

 "Now we're bringing a little bit positivity hopefully to that area … It's a powerful message." 

The High Level Bridge has long been used for suicide attempts. Horizontal mesh suicide barriers were installed by the city in 2016 in an attempt to improve safety but people in crisis are still drawn to the landmark.

There were 96 crisis calls originating from the bridge in 2018, down slightly from 114 in 2017.  

After attendees of the vigil have gathered in Const. Ezio Faraone Park at 7 p.m. there will be speeches and chance to talk before the candlelit walk across the bridge. 

Hope said the vigil provides safe space for survivors and their families to reflect, remember and find strength in each other.

"We walk the bridge, and then we take a moment of reflection," Hope said in an interview Tuesday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. 

"This is our support time where we can talk to each other and share our stories."

Sometimes the happiest person in your life is actually the saddest.- Jennifer Hope

Hope has struggled with mental illness her entire life. She has survived three suicide attempts. 

Sharing her story with others has given her the strength to carry on, she said. 

"I want to show people that it's real. I'm a real person. I had a real struggle," she said. "It took 36 years to get help but I did get help.

"I just want people to know that it's possible. And I want them to have that hope."

Kids need more help dealing with depression, anxiety, say child advocates

Hope said the stigma around mental illness prevented her from getting help. She wants to reduce the stigma. 

Start the conversation," she said.

"Check in on each other because sometimes the happiest person in your life is actually the saddest." 

If you or someone you know is in need of mental health supports, you can find more resources here.