A Nova Scotia woman is calling for a full barrier across a busy Halifax bridge to prevent suicide deaths like that of her son.
More than six months after Adam Cashen's death, Carol Cashen says she believes her son "was one of those that could have been saved."
Cashen told CBC News Wednesday Adam was a typical 19-year old — active, fun and smart — and the family had no warning that things were about to go tragically wrong.
But in the early hours of July 26, Adam stood on the walkway of the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge. He tried to call some of his friends but no one answered. He sent a text message to his mother. After a while, he climbed the railing and jumped.
Cashen's phone beeped. She picked it up and saw the text message from Adam.
"He said he was sorry and that he loved me," she said.
Cashen said her son was impulsive and didn't think before he acted.
"I think he went for a walk that morning and he became upset and … the bridge was there. I think if there was a barrier there we wouldn't be sitting here today talking about it," she said.
The idea of a screen to prevent people from jumping off bridges has been implemented elsewhere. A steel barrier was installed on the Jacques Cartier Bridge in Montreal in 2004. Last year, officials installed cages to stop climbers.
There's also a barrier over the Bloor Street Viaduct in Toronto, which has eliminated suicides there, said Carol Tooton, with the Canadian Mental Health Association in Nova Scotia.
Tooton believes a similar structure could make a difference in Halifax.
"We know that from research that if we can limit an individual's access to the means by which they can do self-harm, then we're going to be possibly eliminating a suicide," she said.
There is a partial barrier on the Macdonald Bridge. The Department of National Defence requested it to protect workers directly below from falling objects.
Can't extend barrier: commission
Steve Snider, general manager and CEO of the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission, said it's not possible to extend the barrier.
"A combination of the weight load and the resulting wind load doesn't permit us to do that," said Snider.
The bridge commission isn't talking about Adam's case. Neither will it say how many people have jumped from the bridge, citing a concern that doing so could lead to copycat cases.
However, Halifax Regional Police have received 32 calls about suicide attempts on the Macdonald Bridge and seven relating to suicides in the last three years, according to a report in The Coast. And a commission document obtained by the magazine refers to the bridge as a "hot-spot" for suicidal behaviour.
Carol Cashen believes her son was on the bridge for about 40 minutes, and she said there were other missed opportunities to help Adam that day.
She said she was told the cameras were not able to spot Adam because of where he was standing, and while the bridge commission was notified about him being distraught, a vehicle sent by the commission didn't find him.
"I just believe that there needs to be something in place [so] that the bridge isn't as attractive as it is to people thinking of suicide," Cashen said.
Either way although there are some benifits from the idea, it still doesn't come close to solving the problem. They feel suicidal, they goto the bridge, they can't jump, they walk away. They doesn't solve why they were suicidal to begin with, nor will you even know they went there to contemplate suicide, therefore it still doesn't solve the problem and they continue through their life unchanged until the next opportunity comes across.
If someone is going to kill themselves, they'll find a way. Trying to barracade or block certain areas so they can't kill themselves there doesn't solve the problem.
I guess they find a load of bodies around the bridges throughout the years, so it is a problem, but each situation is different with different reasons, and if they can not build up additional sections to the bridge to prevent it due to wind loads and structure, then a better solution is needed apparently.