Almost 50 positive messages were tied on to the Waterloo Park bridge, this Saturday Oct. 5, in the hopes of raising awareness about mental health said Olivia Miller, Bridges of Hope co-founder.
“We [Olivia Miller and Gretta Dotzert] started this project because we saw that a lot of students were struggling with mental health and just wanted to see that sign of hope”, said Miller.
Miller, a first year UW Social Development Studies student, said that she and her friend, Gretta Dotzert, intentionally put these messages on pedestrian bridges, so that they can be seen by those passing by.
“The bridge is kind of like a metaphor that we all have bridges we need to cross in life.
And if we do it with the community and people around us, it makes it a lot easier,” said Miller.
The annual Bridges of Hope event, on its second time in Waterloo, brought multiple mental health vendors that had products up for viewing and sale.
There was a live music performance followed by talks from Carolina Miranda from the Waterloo Art Gallery, and Kelly Lovell, who has spoken to the United Nations in the past.
Lovell said in her speech that while growing up she had her own mental health problems and that often times most people who seem like they have their life put together sometimes struggle the most because they can be very good at hiding.
“You can see someone with a broken arm or a leg and you know that they need help, but mental health is an invisible challenge that you can’t see [so you can’t reach out to help],” she said.
Lovell said initiatives like Bridges of Hope are incredibly important. “We all have the power to create a spark, a spark that can turn into a ripple effect and I think that the initiative that Olivia has put together is a perfect example of that,” she said.
Miller and Dotzert, noticed the number of students who struggled with their mental health and felt a lack of positivity in their environment while entering their last of high school last year.
They were inspired after seeing a newspaper article about a student named Paige Hunter from Sunderland, UK, who attached positive messages to a frequently-traveled bridge, who has now prevented over 20 suicides since the beginning of her project.