How a Sunderland student’s notes of hope are helping save lives in California

The lifesaving actions of a Sunderland student who attached notes to the Wearmouth Bridge has inspired the same idea to be used more than 5,000 miles away.

The story of how Paige Hunter attached messages to the Wearmouth Bridge urging those in need to seek support and think about a better future has been followed across the world.

Now the same gesture has been used in Auburn, California, after locals found out about the idea and did the same at two walkways each side of the Foresthill Bridge over the North Fork American River.

The spot, which is in the northern foothills between Reno and San Fransisco, is the fourth highest bridge in the country, with 87 people taking their lives there since 1973.

It is hoped the notes - some 240 messages attached by locals - will reach out to those feeling vulnerable, with handwritten lines including “No matter what, there is always a reason to smile,” “You are loved” and “Hold On Pain Ends” tied to the railings.

Paige, 18, from Plains Farm, has been delighted the idea has been picked up by others.

Paige Hunter's comfort notes have been left on Wearmouth Bridge

Paige Hunter's comfort notes have been left on Wearmouth Bridge

This week she appeared on This Morning, where she spoke to presenters Ruth Langsford and Eamonn Holmes about what she did alongside an expert as they discussed the issue of suicide.

Paige, who works at Poundworld and has been studying health and social care at East Durham College in Peterlee, said: “It’s absolutely amazing that people all over the world are now wanting to place notes of hope to bridges.

“I didn’t expect it to get as far as this but the fact it has is great.

“I hope these notes carry on helping those in despair in order to get the help and support they need.”

I didn’t expect it to get as far as this but the fact it has is great.

Paige Hunter

She added Ruth and Eamonn had helped put her nerves at ease as she appeared on live television by offering her reassurance as she told viewers about the notes she had added over the River Wear crossing.

Late last month she was given a commendation by Northumbria Police in recognition of her actions.

Among those to add the notes to the 730ft-span Foresthill Bridge is John Buck, who put up 20 notes before others followed suit.

He told the Auburn Journal, which carried the story about the messages: “You can’t put into words how good this makes me feel.”

A message attached to the Foresthill Bridge in California, pictured by the Auburn Journal.

A message attached to the Foresthill Bridge in California, pictured by the Auburn Journal.

A group led by Brittney Hendricks, who runs a tattoo studio in Old Town Auburn, then added more, with hopes more will appear to cover the length of the bridge, with an event set up to help people create laminated notes to add.

Brittney, who was also moved to act after two incidents where people were talked down from the bridge, said: “These lost souls need to know that we care — that they are not alone and there is hope.

“Eighty-seven lives lost is far too many and we need to intervene now.”

Paige decided to post her notes after she saw someone doing the same in Newcastle, with her Facebook posts helping to spread news of her efforts.

The Foresthill Bridge in the northern foothills of California.

The Foresthill Bridge in the northern foothills of California.

One of the notes left on the Foresthill Bridge in California, as featured in the Auburn Journal.

One of the notes left on the Foresthill Bridge in California, as featured in the Auburn Journal.