Vista Bridge suicides: Volunteers will be standing watch

PORTLAND, Ore. - Volunteers got some training on Wednesday as part of a plan to try to stop people from committing suicide by jumping off of the historic Vista Bridge.

About 30 volunteers went through four hours of training. They also signed up for two-hour shifts to be on the bridge - watching for anyone who might be thinking about jumping. The first volunteer will be on the bridge early Thursday morning.

The effort was organized by Friends of the Vista Bridge, which hopes to have volunteers on the bridge 24 hours a day, seven days a week until a temporary fence can be built. The fence should be up by the middle of August.

Four people, including a 15-year-old girl, have committed suicides from the bridge this year, prompting Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick to declare an emergency. Novick ordered for the immediate construction of a temporary screen until funding can be found to pay for something more permanent.

"We know when people have a barrier, it stops them from going through with what quite often is an impetuous act," said Tom Parker. "It doesn't just create another means - people may say 'well, you can go someplace else to jump.' No, in most cases they don't."

Right now, Friends of the Vista Bridge has enough volunteers for the critical times but could use more. You can call Lines for Life, which conducted Wednesday's training, for more information.

Lines for Life has a pretty good save record - they have been able to prevent someone from killing themselves about 95 percent of the time.

There are some who don't like the idea of having a suicide prevention barrier on the bridge. The ultimate goal is to have one that looks good, but still works.

Available resources

If you or someone you know has suicidal thoughts or needs help, police say the following options are available:

  • The Multnomah County Crisis Line is available 24 hours a day at (503) 988-4888.
  • Lines for Life is available 24 hours a day at (503) 972-3456.
  • Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare has an urgent walk-in clinic open from 7:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., 7 days a week. Payment is not necessary. Call (503) 963-2575.