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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Messages Of Hope And Support Posted Along Quechee Gorge Bridge

Jessica Keene stands on the Quechee Gorge Bridge in front of a sign she made that reads, "Step back. You're worth it." The card also has the phone number for the national suicide prevention hotline.
Howard Weiss-Tisman
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VPR
Jessica Keene stands on the Quechee Gorge Bridge in front of a sign she made that reads, "Step back. You're worth it!" The card also has the phone number for the national suicide prevention hotline.

Two local women are putting up index cards, with messages of support and hope, in an attempt to reach anyone who might be contemplating suicide on the Quechee Gorge Bridge.There have been four suicides at the bridge this year, and the Agency of Transportation announced last month that it will install a temporary fence in September to try to prevent anyone else from jumping.

But Jessica Keene said she wanted to get her cards up now before the fence is in place.

“I’ve always wanted to do more, and take those first steps and do this,” she said. “We’re trying to do whatever we can and keep this going. We want to help anybody here who is feeling down and depressed, but especially anybody who is coming here to take their own life.”

The cards are strung out across the railings, on both sides of the bridge. They’re brightly colored, and handwritten, and the messages are direct.  

"We want to help anybody here who is feeling down and depressed, but especially anybody who is coming here to take their own life." — Jessica Keene

Keene walks across the bridge and stops at one of the cards. 

“This is one of my favorites,” she says. “Be gentle with yourself, you are doing the best you can.”

Keene’s mother died by suicide 15 years ago, when Keene was only 11 years old, and she says there’s a little bit of her mom in each card.

“This really hits home because I can be hard on myself too,” she says. “And I know my mom was extremely hard on herself. So, you know, I feel like everybody can take something from this card especially.”

Keene and her friend, Jessica Arruda, put up the signs after reading about a similar project in the United Kingdom.

Credit Howard Weiss-Tisman / VPR
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VPR
The signs are tied to the railing over the steep Quechee Gorge, where there have been four suicides this year.

There’s been a lot of a focus on the Quechee bridge recently.

Since 2003 there’s been about one suicide a year here, according to a recent legislative report, and the state plans on putting up a permanent fence in 2022.

But VTrans said it would put up a temporary fence this year after the recent spate of suicides, and Keene says she wants them to also jumpstart a conversation about mental illness and about issues that are sometimes hard to address.

“We definitely want suicide and self-harm and depression to, you know, be taken seriously," Keene says. "Because I feel like a lot of times it’s joked about. It’s pushed under the rug. It’s just something that ... people deal with every day and nobody really understands the impact that it has — you know, especially on the community here, with the four deaths that have happened just this year alone.”

Since putting the cards up earlier this week, Keene and Arruda have received support from across the country on social media.

Keene says she might never know if one of the signs might have helped someone step back for a second, and think, and maybe give up on their suicidal thoughts for a moment.

But she says she’ll come back here from time to time and make sure they’re clean and readable, and here — just in case.

Here are some resources if you or someone you know is considering suicide:

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
  • Veterans Crisis Line & Military Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, Press 1
  • Crisis Text Line: 741-741
  • Vermont Suicide Prevention Center: http://vtspc.org/
  • In emergency situations, call 911.
Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public’s southern Vermont reporter, but sometimes the story takes him to other parts of the state. 
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