Plea for suicide barrier at bridge over Belfast's Westlink
Protesters have demanded that a suicide prevention barrier is installed at a bridge in Belfast.
A support group named the Square Cut Punt Crew began their campaign to increase the height of railings on the Divis bridge on the Westlink after the death of Bangor teenager Nathan Ritchie in October last year.
Yesterday afternoon the group gathered with placards on the bridge.
"Really the barrier is about stopping somebody for literally 30 seconds so they can take a step back, think about it and change their mind," said organiser Alison Brennen.
In 2015 the Office for National Statistics reported there were 318 suicides in Northern Ireland, the worst year ever recorded, with 93 of the deaths in the Belfast Health Trust area.
Joining the campaigners yesterday was William Reece Millar who had known Nathan Ritchie.
"I wasn't close with him, but all you heard about at that time was about suicide or drug-related deaths," he said.
"It's too hard to put the situation here into words - it's going downhill."
"I heard Nathan was trying to get help but was turned away loads of times and felt no one was going to help him. But really it's not that way, it just takes time for people to get help and realise it's not going to happen overnight."
Gerard McDonald, an SDLP representative for the area, urged the Department of Infrastructure to make immediate changes.
"You're dealing with a life and death situation," he said.
A department spokesman said the Divis bridge met national standards for all public road bridges.
The spokesperson added: "While engineering solutions may provide part of the answer by restricting access, in isolation they may not address the underlying problem and have the potential to reinforce the association of bridges with suicide attempts."
- If you or someone you know is in distress or despair, call Lifeline on 0808 808 8000. This is a confidential service, where trained counsellors will listen and help immediately on the phone