For many people who’ve never experienced extreme bouts of depression or feelings of hopelessness, it’s hard to imagine what could drive an individual to end his or her own life. But one young woman from Sunderland, England understands firsthand, and she’s now using her experience to help others overcome suicidal thoughts.
According to The Guardian, England is currently facing a mental health crisis similar to the one we’re witnessing in the U.S., with suicide deaths among 10 to 19-year-olds on the rise, and resources to handle the increasing support needs proving insufficient. Eighteen-year-old Paige Hunter tells Babble that she has made several suicide attempts herself due to suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“That feeling you get when you are debating whether to live is absolutely terrifying and you feel alone in it all,” she shares. “So when things started getting alot better for me I wanted to help those who felt the same way as I did.”
Inspired by a Facebook post she read one day, Hunter came up with the idea of writing messages of support to people who may be contemplating suicide and placing them at a bridge that holds much significance for her. Hunter tells Babble that she nearly took her own life at the Wearmouth Bridge, which crosses the River Wear near Sunderland City Centre.
So, with courage and compassion, Hunter began tying hand-written, laminated notes intended to give people hope and encourage them to keep living.
“I just wanted people to know that they are worth so much more than they believe,” says Hunter.
Hunter says that so far, she’s made over 240 notes containing heartfelt messages like, “You are loved,” “It will get BETTER. Please hold on,” “The world is much better with you in it,” and, “Having a rough day? Place your hand over your heart, can you feel it? That is called purpose. You’re alive for a reason so don’t ever GIVE UP.”
She shares that eight people have reached out to her thus far expressing gratitude.
“[They told] me that I have saved their life and if they didn’t see [the notes] they probably wouldn’t be here anymore and that is absolutely overwhelming,” says Hunter.
Currently a student at East Durham College, where she studies health and social care, Hunter hopes to eventually work in the mental health sector, turning her passion into a career. She would also love to someday have her uplifting words engraved on the Wearmouth Bridge.
Hunter is now raising money for a local mental health charity called Mind, which offers mental health services for individuals and families, and according to the BBC, she was recently awarded a commendation certificate from Northumbria’s police force.
But Hunter says the most rewarding part of her initiative is “just knowing that I have made people smile and have saved people lives by doing something so simple.” She knows just how hard it is to believe that things will ever get better when you’re in the thick of depression, but implores people to “stay strong and keep fighting.”
Hunter’s thoughtful notes on the bridge tell the story of her own past struggles, and demonstrate that there is hope and beauty on the other side of surviving and reaching out for help.
“When I felt like you did, I called for help,” reads one of her notes. “It has to be worth a try, yeah?”
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis in the U.K., 24-hour support is available through The Samaritans on 116 123.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis in the U.S., 24-hour support is available through The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.