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SAVE, MnDOT Building Railings On St. Paul Bridge To Deter Suicide

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- While it may look like any other construction project, the Smith Avenue High Bridge in St. Paul is being redesigned to help save lives.

First-of-its-kind railings will be installed that are designed to help deter suicide.

Dr. Dan Reidenberg has monitored the bridge closely over the past decade through his suicide prevention organization, SAVE.

"We don't want there to be any location anywhere in the world that's designated as a suicide location, or a suicide spot," Reidenberg said. "I've actually been consulted with about this bridge over the last decade with the numbers of suicides that have taken place there."

At 160 feet above the Mississippi River, Reidenberg said there has been almost one suicide per year on average for about the past decade on the bridge, with a concerning seven deaths in 2015.

"The danger is is that it's going to be a place where some people are going to go to that they wouldn't necessarily have headed to if they're really in distress, really upset and are looking for a way out," he said.

Now, with help from SAVE, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is building 9-foot fences along the bridge, which runs about a half mile.

Render of railings to deter suicide
(credit: MnDOT)

The work will happen in addition to other maintenance work that will take about one year to complete.

"We were consulted on what the barrier should look like, the materials, the height of it," Reidenberg said. "This is really the first time in our state where there has been a dedicated effort to looking at putting up a barrier on a bridge that is specific to suicide prevention."

Reidenberg said research shows it is a misconception that suicide cannot be stopped.

For people struggling with thoughts of suicide, the hope is the barriers can help open up the way toward healing.

"We have a large group of people, almost half of the people, making the final decision within about 10 minutes of their death," Reidenberg said.

The Centers for Disease Control reports suicide rates have been increasing since 2000 after decades of decline.

If you or anyone you know may be suffering, anyone in need of help can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

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