A specialist mental health professional is being brought in following a series of tragic deaths at the Tamar Bridge.
“The bridge is famous for a lot of things – Brunel, wonderful engineering – but unfortunately it’s also famous for being that place that some people have chosen to end their life.”
Andy Rance has had enough of seeing people end their lives falling from the Tamar Bridge. He has been a youth worker at the Livewire Youth Project – which is based at the foot of the bridge – for more than 30 years. Three people have died falling from the bridge in under a year. A 21-year-old man lost his life in February in a tragedy that followed the deaths of 38-year-old father Trystan Bryant and a 22-year-old woman, who has not been publicly named.
Now Livewire has just been granted funding from Global, Make Some Noise, to recruit a part-time Mental Health Youth Worker in a bid to put a stop to the tragedies. The new worker will operate at the centre from around April or May and will hold sessions for young people struggling with their mental health.
Andy said: “The mental health worker will be partly responsible for doing one-to-one work with young people that are going through mental health issues, [when] us as the youth work team feel we’ve reached the limits of our skills and abilities. We also want them to coordinate and link in with other provisions for young people with mental health issues.”
Andy explained that Livewire’s goal is to be able to signpost young people with more “complex” mental health problems to a service that will be able to offer them specific help, immediately. “We’ve been told that young people wanting specific help for mental health issues are often being told there is an eight to 10 month waiting list, which I think is a real problem” said Andy. “At that point where you’ve asked for help, is usually the point you need it, it’s not in six, eight, 10 months time, it’s now.”
Livewire’s youth centre is directly under the Tamar Bridge on the Saltash side, and works with young people, primarily between the ages 13 and 21. It is a long-standing registered charity working with young people to help support and change their lives using music. Andy has said that the youth centre would “never turn anyone away” and they are now “desperate” to make a positive impact toward the mental well-being of young people. He said: “We just had to do something. Sadly I know some of the young people who have ended their lives on the bridge and that devastates me. Every time we hear somebody else has gone off the bridge, that devastates us as youth workers, because we can’t be everywhere all the time. A few years ago I had to sprint from outside Livewire to drag a young man off the bridge, and that was to do with legal highs at the time. It just wasn’t going to happen on our watch.”
The Livewire Youth Project group urges anyone struggling with their mental health to “come and talk to us, come and talk to somebody”. Andy added: “I was talking to a young man’s mum, about what we’re doing with this new project. Her son committed suicide. In a way, it’s people like him, and the other young people that have ended up taking their lives, that have pushed us into desperately wanting to do something more. It’s those young people who really drove us to want to do something specific.”
The new mental health provision will also look at including a support network for parents whose children are dealing with mental health problems, giving them a place to go and discuss with others in a similar position.
Andy said: “Other threads of that will include working with parents of young people that are going through mental health issues. We’ve experienced it as parents, myself as a parent, I’ve experienced one of our children going through difficulties, it can be a really lonely, isolating place. Who do you go to for help? Then of course there is all of the stigma around mental health as well, are you a poor parent because your child has mental health issues? Hopefully we’ll be able to set up a support group for those parents, that can meet on a relatively regular basis and we can bring different people in to give them specific kind of skills.”
Young people who use the centre have been included in the decisions on the new mental health provision and will be helping decide how it will work.
The charity has experience in working with children who have experienced depression, anxiety, eating disorders, chaotic alcohol and drug related issues, low self esteem, body image issues, self-harming, and more.
Early intervention sessions will also be held after school for children between five and 10.