Group agrees changes to Goldstream trestle are needed
GOLDSTREAM, B.C. -- As a memorial for Andre Courtemanche grows at the base of the Niagara waterfalls in Goldstream Park on Thursday afternoon, his family is saying goodbye, one last time.
“Today is Andre’s funeral; it’s a heartbreaking day,” said Kirsten Marten, who is the spokesperson for the Courtemanche family.
At the same time that the funeral was taking place, the Island Corridor Foundation was having a meeting with West Shore first responders and mental health stakeholders to discuss safety improvements to the Goldstream trestle.
“We discussed everything, whether it be barriers, railings, fencing and nets, you know, basically everything was discussed,” said Chief Chris Aubrey of Langford Fire Rescue. “We need to make sure that whatever measures that are put into place are going to be effective.”
Courtemanche’s parents have been calling for suicide prevention barriers to be constructed along the bridge since their son took his life there in early January.
“I’m absolutely convinced that this is an evidence-based solution that will save lives,” said Vincent Gornall, who has become an advocate for mental health after his sister died by suicide in July. He and others have joined the calls for barriers.
On Thursday, another new voice joined in. Glenn Cooper is a retired volunteer firefighter in Langford. He has been called to the trestle and witnessed firsthand the aftermath of tragedy too many times.
“These are tough events for the families it’s a tough event for the first responders,” said Cooper. “It’s putting those first responders in a high risk situation where they have to put their own lives at risk, to get these people out.”
The question that needs to be asked is, “will barriers work?”
“They definitely work, at least to prevent suicides at that location,” said Dr. Heather Baitz, a registered psychologist based in Nanaimo.
Studies have been done and the findings, according to Baitz, are promising.
“They found that the number deaths by suicide at the places with barriers went down by 86 per cent,” said Baitz. “Then they look at what were the deaths by suicide at nearby areas that were also by jumping, and those actually went up 44 per cent.”
That is a net decrease of 28 per cent in the total number of suicides by jumping, specifically.
“It’s seems actually entirely reasonable to me that by creating barriers and making it more difficult for people to actually act on some of these impulsive thoughts, that it could very well save a lot of lives,” said Baitz.
Also discussed in today’s meeting, a need for improved mental health resources in the community.
“Whatever decision we make with the infrastructure needs to pair perfectly with improvement to health supports,” said Aubrey. “Both go hand in hand and therefore we need to make sure both are well planned out before we make any final move forward.”
The group will meet again next week, but it’s safe to say changes will be coming to the Goldstream trestle in the future.
If you or someone you know might be having suicidal thoughts, there is help available. You can call the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888.