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'Bridge of Life' projects messages to prevent suicides

A bridge in South Korea where many people have taken their lives has been revamped with inspirational messages of hope that light up as people walk by.

Cheil Worldwide

Of all the countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, South Korea has by far the highest suicide rate -- 28.4 per 100,000 people per year according to the OECD, making it the most common cause of death for people under 40.

And one bridge over the Han River, the Mapo Bridge, has been dubbed the Bridge of Death for its unfortunate popularity among those seeking to end their own life. Between 2007 and 2012, more than 100 people attempted suicide from the Mapo Bridge.

To try to counteract the number of deaths from the bridge, the Seoul City government didn't build a high fence or suicide barrier; instead, it teamed with Samsung Life Insurance to take a different path, adding interactive handrails that speak directly to passersby.

The handrails use motion sensors to sense people's movements and then light up with short inspirational messages crafted with the help of psychologists and suicide prevention specialists, as well as photos of happy families and individuals.

"How have you been? Have you eaten? If you need to talk, why don't you talk to us?" the bridge asks, with a number for a suicide hotline. The bridge, which uses 2,200 LED lights, has won a number of awards, including, most recently, a Titanium Lion award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Cheil Worldwide

Some have criticized the bridge, believing that photos of families could trigger someone who was deeply missing a deceased family member. "It might make someone more sad, because maybe they lost a child. It could be someone they miss very much and want to go with them," Dr. Kim Hyun-chung, a psychiatrist at the National Medical Center in Seoul, was quoted as saying in an article about the project last year.

However, according to the Seoul City government, the suicide rate from Mapo Bridge has dropped 77 percent since the revamped design was unveiled last September and the bridge is now one of the city's most popular walking spots.

The government has dubbed it the Bridge of Life.

Of course, the next step is probably an in-depth analysis of why the suicide rate in South Korea is so high and then addressing the root causes of the crisis ... but this is something, and it's a start.

(Source: Crave Australia)