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Stones of hope: Auburn resident offers kind messages for those considering suicide at the Foresthill Bridge

By: Tricia Caspers of the Auburn Journal
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OUT OF THE DARKNESS WALKS

Aubree Jackson will join Out of the Darkness Walks fundraiser for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and she would like to invite others to join her. 
When: 9 a.m., Saturday, Oct. 8
Where: Railhead Park, 175 Pacific Ave. 
Info: Afsp.donordrive.com or email
 
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HOW TO GET HELP
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or thoughts of suicide, call the Placer County 24-hour line for Child and Adult Emergency Services at 530-886-5401. 

Last June, when Aubree Jackson heard that two people had taken their lives by jumping from the Foresthill Bridge, she wanted to do something to help.

She was about to turn 40, and she was emotional about her impending birthday. The news of two suicides hit home. She picked up her kids from school, and they asked her what was wrong.

 “I know what it’s like to be in a lot of pain,” Jackson said. “I know there’s always another solution.”

She started brainstorming.

It wasn’t long before Jackson had an idea. What people need is a sign of hope, she said. She decided to paint as many stones as possible with messages of love and joy, and place them strategically along the Foresthill Bridge where anyone contemplating suicide might see them – might pause long enough to reconsider. 

Jackson put a call out to Auburn groups on Facebook and soon had gathered about 25 people to help, including her daughter’s dance class and her son’s Placer Junior Hillmen football team.

“The kids would come over, see me painting rocks and say, ‘Hey, what are you doing? I want to help.’”

Together, the group painted at least 100 stones in glow-in-the-dark paint with phrases such as “life is good,” or single words like, “strength,” “breath,” and “trust.” 

County officials have taken measures to prevent suicides on the Foresthill Bridge, such as installing fencing, but recent jumpers have used ladders to climb over the fence.

That was the case for Joseph McAtee.

The 56-year-old Rocklin man jumped from the bridge close to 6:30 a.m., Thursday, according to Lt. Troy Minton Sander of the Placer County Sheriff’s office.

McAtee was pronounced dead just after 7 a.m. It doesn’t appear that he had contact with anyone before he jumped.

McAtee is the 76th person to have jumped from the bridge since its construction in 1971, according to the Auburn Journal’s count.

“These are tragic events,” Minton Sander said. “They’re also tragic for first responders (and those) who have to try to locate the body.”

While Minton Sander said he appreciates the efforts of kindhearted people, he’s also concerned that the stones will be kicked or thrown over the bridge, possibly injuring people below.

County officials will assess the risk, said Chris Gray-Garcia, spokesperson for Placer County.

“We appreciate the sentiment,” he said.

Others have made similar efforts to appeal to those who go to the bridge in despair, Minton Sander said. At one point there was an effort to paint the bridge with messages of hope.

The stones are only the beginning for Jackson.

She hopes to spearhead an effort to create lights on the bridge that flash messages, similar to the Bridge of Hope in Seoul, South Korea, which has had the second highest rate of suicide in the world.

“I want to really teach my children how to be that shining light for someone else,” Jackson said.

Reach reporter Tricia Caspers at triciar@goldcountrymedia.com