Does the Tavistock Viaduct need more Mental Health signs?

Earlier this week, I went for a late-night walk to the Tavistock viaduct, located above Bannawell Street, to appreciate the views of Tavistock. While I was up there, one of my friends pointed something out to me that I have never noticed in the many times I have walked up and past the viaduct, and it has been playing on my mind ever since.

At the bottom of Glanville Road is a small gate and path that leads to the bridge overlooking Tavistock. As you walk down this rather narrow path, you will be greeted with the foliage of the viaduct walk to your left and a brick wall to your right followed by a small fence with some ivy growing over the top.

At the bottom of this path is a bright green sign, reading ‘talk to us if things are getting to you’ followed by a phone number and a Samaritans logo.

From what I could see, there were only two of these signs located on the viaduct site; one being on the fence at the end of the path, and one being on a gate that connects to the walking path.

The intentions of the sign are fantastic as mental health has become an increasingly recognised issue (especially with the COVID-19 pandemic giving us the most ‘us’ time we have had in a long time), and the phone number being there could be the difference that saves somebody’s life.

However, the positioning of the sign left me feeling conflicted, as it is in such a subtle location that I fear people may not actually notice the sign – much like myself – but in their time of need.

Local teenager, Ben Moran, agreed with me, saying

“I think you’ve got a point, it’s terribly discreet messaging. I think more regular signage across the inside of the viaduct would be better.”

However, other people I have spoken to insist that there used to be signage across the inside of the viaduct, that isn’t currently there now. Apart from the two signs I saw, there was nothing else in sight.

The West Devon Borough Council posted on Facebook in May 2020 about the installation of new signs after the previous signs were “torn down within 24 hours.”

The lack of respect towards these signs in Tavistock highlights a bigger issue in the local community. The viaduct has also caused controversy recently after teenagers damaged somebody’s car after throwing rocks off the bridge.

These signs could be the difference between life and death, and the fact that the lack of signs is due to vandalism highlights the need for change.

In conclusion – yes, the viaduct needs new signs. But as a community, we need to take care of them. We need to add more signs to the viaduct that are less subtle, and try to discourage vandalism to ensure they are there when people need them most.

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