TWIN FALLS • The Perrine Bridge is one of the Magic Valley’s most popular scenic destinations. Unfortunately, it’s also a common destination for those contemplating suicide.
The exact number of people who have ended their lives by jumping off the bridge — and a tally of those who have made dark contemplations on its span 486 feet above the Snake River — remains unknown. But considering that one such death is too many, the Idaho Transportation Department has partnered with a local anti-suicide organization to provide an alternative to those who may need it the most.
Signs now posted on each side of the bridge list the national suicide hot-line phone number with a simple question above it, “Need hope?”
The signs were designed to be intentionally vague, said Lori Stewart, co-chairwoman of Suicide Prevention Action Network of Idaho’s regional office.
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“These signs are there for anyone who needs help — it doesn’t just have to be suicide,” she said. “We don’t want to leave anyone out.”
It has taken more than a year for SPAN to get approval from ITD to post the signs on the bridge. According to ITD, it is state policy that non-traffic related signs are forbidden on bridges. When SPAN first applied for the signs, the request was rejected. Approval was only granted after multiple appeals and negotiations occurred between the two parties.
Now, the Perrine Bridge is the first bridge in Idaho to have an anti-suicide sign posted on it.
“There’s no normal when it comes to prevention measures on bridges,” said Kim Kane, executive director of SPAN in Boise. “Bridges are as different as the communities they are in. Barriers are the most effective, but it’s whatever you can do to meet the needs of your community that will work best when it comes to suicide prevention.”
Idaho has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. In 2010, Idaho’s suicide rate was 18.5 deaths per 100,000 people.
Signs like those posted on the Perrine Bridge will hopefully raise awareness that Idaho needs more resources for those contemplating suicide. Currently, Idaho is the only state without its own anti-suicide hot-line.
“I’d like to see our legislators move closer to getting a suicide hot-line for Idaho,” Stewart said. “This is a huge issue for the state. Any message we can get out there to people to offer hope will help us move forward.”