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Bill would place barriers on the Natchez Trace Bridge to help prevent suicides

Posted at 10:15 PM, Feb 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-06 23:40:11-05

WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Tenn (WTVF) — The Natchez Trace bridge crosses above Highway 96 in Williamson County, but unfortunately, this same bridge is the site for several suicide deaths. Now one lawmaker and his constituents are hoping to change that.

“Losing a child is like losing a limb, you learn to adapt to life without that limb but not a moment goes by, you are not keenly aware that limb is gone,” said Trish Merelo.

That limb according to Merelo is her son.

“His name was John, he was 17, he was just lovely and his was in the middle of his senior year in high school,” she said.

Merelo, the co-founder of the Natchez Trace Bridge Barrier Coalition, says John was in marching band, he had friends, he went to parties, but he needed help.

“He did suffer from depression, and I would see a dip from time to time,” said Merelo.

John is one of 32 people since 2000 who have committed suicide by jumping from the Natchez Trace Parkway bridge in Williamson County.

“I call it basically a health crisis in Williamson County,” said state Rep. Sam Whitson.

There were five suicide deaths in 2017 and 3 last year.

“That's why we're encouraging something to be done at the federal level and we're working with our federal delegation,” said Whitson.

The Bridge is operated by the National Park Service so only the federal government can implement any changes.

“What we truly want is a physical raising of that railing,” Merelo said she would like to see an 8-foot fence.

State representative Sam Whitson are proposing a resolution to get the federal government to place a barrier under or on this bridge.

But until then Merelo has a message for those in pain.

“You can get through this, we will get you through this, you need time, you just need time,’ said Merelo.

Whitson and Merelo say those who have tried commit suicide and survived said they instantly regretted their decision to.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK) in 2008, updated in 2017, is that the use of bridge barriers is the most effective means of bridge suicide prevention.