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Drivers yelled at man in mental health crisis during Alex Fraser Bridge closure: police

The Alex Fraser Bridge is seen in Delta, B.C., on Thursday Dec.12, 2019. Police say drivers on the bridge honked and yelled at a man in a mental health crisis standing outside the safety rail, even encouraging him to "take action." THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck. DD

Mental health experts want to remind everyone that there is a person at the heart of every crisis and that the behaviour of some drivers on the Alex Fraser Bridge earlier this week was not helpful or empathetic.

“You’ve got the police and the people who are trying to help that person live, send the message that people care, and then folks who are are honking their horns are inadvertently sending the message that their commute home is more important,” said Crisis Centre of BC executive director Stacy Ashton, who was one of the commuters on the bridge on Monday.

Delta police closed the southbound lanes of the Alex Fraser Bridge around noon after receiving reports there was a man outside the safety rail.

Officers and first responders wanted to close those lanes as the bridge deck is a loud environment and the noise and heavy gusts of wind can elevate the danger to those involved, police explained.

Click to play video: 'Heavy traffic on Alex Fraser Bridge after driver attacked by passenger'
Heavy traffic on Alex Fraser Bridge after driver attacked by passenger

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However, police said the actions of several frustrated commuters made de-escalating the situation much more difficult.

Drivers were “rubber-necking” to get a view, honking horns, yelling at the individual in crisis, and even encouraging them to take action, police said in a release.

In addition, some people actually walked up the bridge deck, talked to the officers and even took photos and videos of the person in crisis.

Other drivers became so frustrated they tried to go around vehicles creating the road closure. At 6 p.m. a person hit a highway vehicle and a concrete barrier, causing several thousand dollars in damage, police said.

Just after 7 p.m., another driver ignored a flagger and drove around the barricades. This driver was found to be impaired and was issued a 90-day driving suspension along with a 30-day vehicle impound, police added.

The man on the bridge, who had been hanging on for nearly eight hours, climbed back over the rail to safety just before 8 p.m.

Police said he was provided with the medical attention he needed.

Click to play video: 'Port Mann and Alex Fraser bridges shut down due to poor driving conditions'
Port Mann and Alex Fraser bridges shut down due to poor driving conditions

“I can guarantee you that the person in the mental health crisis is having the worse day,” Ashton said.

She said it’s important to remember that a crisis can be sparked by one of life’s many stressors and can happen to anyone at any time.

“It’s important to remember there is a person at the heart of a crisis — someone’s dad or aunt or child. When we are in crisis we need someone to recognize that we are a human being in crisis, listen to us, and guide us back to feeling stable,” said Ashton.

Anyone can call 1-800-SUICIDE or 310-6789 to support themselves or get support in helping another person.

Below is a list of resources with experts available 24/7, 365 for anyone in crisis.

Fraser Health Crisis Line 604-951-8855 or 1-877-820-7444

Crisis Services Canada (www.talksuicide.ca) 1-833-456-4566

Crisis Centre BC (www.crisiscentre.bc.ca) 1-800-784-2433

Kids Help Phone (www.kidshelpphone.ca) 1-800-668-6868

310Mental Health Support (no area code required) 310-6789

Canadian Mental Health Association (www.cmha.ca)

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