WARNING: This story contains information about suicide. If you or a loved one is thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-8255. The NSPL provides 24-hour, free support to those in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources for you or loved ones.
At roughly 4 a.m. Monday, Williamson County Sheriff's Deputy Adrian Finch responded to a call at the Natchez Trace Bridge in Franklin, where upon arriving, saw an 18-year-old male standing on the other side of the 32-inch railing.
"I'm just nervous, nervous as hell," the teen told Finch.
"I understand, I'm nervous too," Finch told the teen.
After minutes of tense discussion, Finch was able to coerce the teen to climb down to safety, where he later broke down.
Public Information Administrator Sharon Puckett with the Williamson County Sheriff's Office said the teen was not a resident of Williamson County, and that he had called police on his own cellphone moments before his contact with authorities.
Despite a happy ending, incidents such as these are not too uncommon at the Natchez Trace Bridge. More infamously known as "Suicide Bridge," at least 32 people have lost their lives to suicide at the scenic spot since the year 2000, with three of those instances occurring from August through October of this year.
Efforts to stop suicides at the bridge have been ongoing for years, with among the strongest voices in those efforts coming from Franklin resident Trish Merelo, who tragically lost her son to suicide at the bridge in 2016.
"Seeing this officer get out and talk to him and do everything the way it should be done, and seeing the young man be open to talking to the officer, and be open to stepping down... it's just the best possible outcome," Merelo told the Home Page. "To hear the young man break down... I think anyone watching that has to be moved and see the gravity of this situation."
Merelo is one of two founders of the Natchez Trace Bridge Barrier Coalition: an organization that advocates for barriers to be constructed along the 1,572-foot bridge. The organization's efforts have proven successful so far, with two emergency call boxes being installed on the bridge back in August, and $1.2 million already secured towards the preliminary phases of constructing barriers along the bridge, of which construction is expected to begin sometime in 2023.
These ongoing occurrences, however, have left Merelo brainstorming more immediate fixes to the problem of suicides at the bridge.
"The fact that we have to wait until 2023 for these barriers is just getting more and more ludicrous with each life that we hear has either been saved or not saved," Merelo said. "I asked if we could expedite this process, and I was told by the National Park Service that it's already on an expedited path. I'm at the point now where I say throw up a chain link fence and we'll make it pretty later - let's put something up there now."
"They are moving, but something needs to be done in the meantime. It's just become more and more clear: something's got to go up, a temporary fix."
Watch below to see Deputy Finch talk down the teen through body camera footage obtained by WKRN News on Nov. 18, 2019.