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Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 December 2006, 15:32 GMT
Suicide spot team 'saving lives'
By Stuart Richards
BBC News

Members of the coastguard and Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team

Beachy Head in East Sussex is far better-known than most clifftops - achieving its fame through being a notorious suicide spot.

But 2006 has seen a dramatic fall in the number of deaths there.

The change has been credited in part to the work of a dedicated support team, established in August 2004.

The Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team (BHCT) now has nearly 20 members carrying out evening patrols or working on call-outs and an aftercare service.

Beachy Head is an area of coastline near Eastbourne, where police and the coastguard are regularly called out to reports of people looking as if they might jump from the cliffs.

Sadly, sometimes people are determined and there's not a lot we can do
Ross Hardy
Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team
But the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) said the number of suicides had gone down from 26 in 2005 to only seven this year.

The agency said BHCT had developed a "proven and effective role [in] managing the Beachy Head situation".

Ross Hardy, 32, from Eastbourne, was part of the original group that set up BHCT two years ago, and is now team leader.

He and the others involved work in pairs on seven-day-a-week evening patrols at Beachy Head.

Cliffs at Beachy Head
The number of suicides fell from 26 in 2005 to only seven this year

Mr Hardy said: "It's about intervention, we're actually there approaching people who may be in the area in vehicles or on the cliff edge itself."

The frontline teams attempt to reach out to the depressed or suicidal, Mr Hardy said, because "some people get to a place where they can see no answer other than to end their lives".

"There's a lot more pressure on people nowadays, for example a husband and wife having to work all hours to pay the bills and the mortgage."

Mr Hardy said the chaplaincy team had attended 127 incidents in 2006 of people causing concern on the cliffs.

"They're not all there with the intention that night of jumping off, some may be struggling with something and they've gone up there maybe to think."

But during his two years as a member of BHCT, Mr Hardy has had to go through one incident where a suicidal person did end up taking their own life.

Ross Hardy (left) and Faithworks founder, the Reverend Steve Chalke
Ross Hardy (left) picked up an award for BHCT's work

"Sadly, sometimes people are determined and there's not a lot we can do.

"The way we have to look at it is that we are saving a lot of lives.

"Our desire as always is to put a stop to these suicides at Beachy Head.

"We're very pleased to see the figures have gone down, but it's still important to point out that each and every one of these deaths is a tragedy for the person that's gone and for those they leave behind."

The team was recently honoured with the Community Innovation Award for Developing Projects from Faithworks, a group which represents Christians who give up their time to serve their local community.

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27 Mar 06 |  Southern Counties
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30 Mar 05 |  Southern Counties
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22 Aug 04 |  Southern Counties
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09 Feb 04 |  Southern Counties

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