‘It’s really tough out there at the moment’

Police activity at Torrisholme Bridge
Police activity at Torrisholme Bridge

A quick-thinking support worker helped to save the life of a man about to jump off a railway bridge in Lancaster.

Tammy Howe, 28, said the former soldier told her that he felt he had been let down by the mental health service and the government, and wanted to end his life.

Support worker Tammy Howe

Support worker Tammy Howe

The incident is just the latest of several similar ones in Lancaster over recent months.

Tammy, who has also condemned posts on social media following the incident, was praised by her boss Jo Williams, who said the current situation for people with enduring mental health issues is “dire”.

Tammy works for Lancaster care agency Has 2 b happy, and was on a break when she saw police activity in Torrisholme Road at around 10.30am on May 28.

Lancashire Police had received a call from a member of the public concerned for the safety of the man, who was on the opposite side of the railings on top of the bridge.

Tammy Howe, right, at work at Outrageous Ambition

Tammy Howe, right, at work at Outrageous Ambition

Tammy approached an officer, told him what she did for a living, and said she was happy to help.

The former Morecambe High School pupil, who has been a support worker for just seven months, said: “I saw what was happening and just offered to help.

“I recognised the man, he had been in the army and was suffering from PTSD. He said he’d not been getting a lot of help. He told me that it was cuts to government funding that meant he couldn’t get access to care. I managed to connect with him, and we started having a conversation.

“He was hearing voices in his head, and then a policeman approached and asked me if I would go up on the bridge.”

Tammy said she was on the bridge for an hour talking to the man, during which time a negotiator failed to turn up.

She said: “He was asking me to tell the police that he felt he had been let down by the mental health service, by the government, and by everybody. He said he had no life, no home, and the only thing he could think to do was not to live anymore.

“I couldn’t tell you what stopped him from jumping.

“I just carried on telling him I was there to help him, and that he’s a better person than that and eventually he came down.”

The man was then detained by police and taken to hospital.

Jo Williams, registered manager for Has 2 b happy, which is part of the Outrageous Ambition social enterprise based at The White Cross, said: “Tammy is a very strong woman and I want to give credit to her tenacity. Things could have been very different. It’s really tough out there at the moment. The services are being squeezed. The whole situation for people with enduring mental health issues is pretty dire. There is definitely a crisis in mental health provision at the moment.”

Tammy said she “couldn’t believe” some of the comments made on social media in response to the initial story.

She said: “As a society we seem to think it’s okay to encourage people to end their own life, and this is a broader statement about how we treat people in our communities.

Everyone is one pay check away from being homeless.

“It’s becoming harder for people to get the support they need, so these situations escalate. The police did everything they could, and the British Transport Police were fantastic.”

Lancashire Police said a negotiator had been called, but arrived after the man had climbed back to safety.

A spokesperson from mental health service provider Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We cannot comment on individual cases however if someone is in receipt of our mental health services or in contact with a Crisis Team/Home Treatment Team, then they are able to contact the service 24/7 for help and support.

“In some cases, people who are expressing suicidal intentions are not necessarily known to our services and may sometimes first have contact with other services, such as the emergency services, before subsequently being referred to specialist mental health services.

“It is normal for emergency services to deal with these types of scenario in the first instance as they have specially trained officers to talk to people in these situation and they can bring in partner agencies to support as appropriate.

“If it transpires that the person is experiencing a mental health crisis, the police are able to ensure that the person is assessed by mental health services.”