The number of deaths by suicide at the Mosta Bridge has been reduced drastically since a fence was installed there last year to prevent people from jumping.

So far this year, there have only been two deaths reported from the bridge, in contrast to an average of nine a year over the previous years.

Psychiatrist Mark Xuereb, who manages crisis teams that offer support to those contemplating suicide, said that the fence has proven its worth, with the number of cases down significantly.

The structure was installed last October by the local council and was a project that had been in the pipeline for some time, as the number of deaths at the bridge kept rising.

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Initially, many argued that the fence would do little to discourage those contemplating suicide, especially since it is only a metre high. But Dr Xuereb said the drop in numbers was proof that such measures did work to discourage people from ending their lives.

Suicide is something that few people talk about, and so it is often an issue that is forgotten, even though plenty of lives are lost in this way

He commended the Mosta council for being the first to take such an initiative. While it was a step forward, he added, it did not mean that efforts to address the issue should stop there.

“Any able-bodied person can climb over the fence if they really want to. So while the council did an incredible job, more measures in other hotspots are still urgently needed,” Dr Xuereb said, pointing to Dingli Cliffs as one of the areas where suicides still occur on a regular basis.

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As part of the National Suicide Prevention Strategy, drafted by a team of experts in 2015 but still to be implemented, Dr Xuereb’s team at Crisis Resolution Malta is pushing for webcams and crisis telephone lines to be placed at sites where suicide attempts are frequent.

“The fence initiative worked, and that’s a good thing, but we cannot stop at that.

“There is much more that needs to be done, and installing the webcams is one such measure. Suicide is something that few people talk about, and so it is often an issue that is forgotten, even though plenty of lives are lost this way,” Dr Xuereb said, adding that the cameras would enable crisis teams to identify “loiterers”.

Such people tend to roam visibly in various public spots, contemplating suicide. By having webcams that are monitored around the clock, the crisis teams can be dispatched to offer immediate help.

Official data tabled in Parliament earlier this year showed that in 2016, 21 people died by suicide, 18 of them men. Last year, the average age of those who committed suicide was 45.

Aġenzija Appoġġ offers emotional help through its round-the-clock support line, 179, for various issues, including suicide, both to those contemplating it and to relatives, especially after a loss.

Crisis Resolution Malta, a private network that consists of professionals from various backgrounds, also offers support surrounding suicide.

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