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Signs Transform Seoul Bridge Into “The Bridge of Life”

Environmental graphics likely reduced suicide attempts at Mapo Bridge

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Bridges over large bodies of water have always been tragic destinations for suicidally depressed people. In South Korea, the problem is compounded by the countriest suicide rate of approximately 29 per year per 100,000 people — the highest in the industrialized world. Seoul’s Mapo bridge had become a common target for suicide attempts — more than 100 had been made from 2007 and early 2012.

Last fall, the Samsung Life Insurance Co. engaged its ad agency, Cheil Worldwide, to create signage and graphics along the Mapo’s walkway to dissaude the depressed. The program includes panels with such encouraging messages as "The best has yet to come?" and "You look worried. Are you OK?" One panel provides a phone number for a suicide-prevention hotline. After dark, sensor-activated spotlights shine down upon the messages. The environmental graphics also include photos of families and children, as well as a sculpture of two statues on a bench, with one comforting the other.

Since their installation, the rate of suicide attempts reportedly dropped 75%. And, the Mapo bridge has earned a new nickname: The Bridge of Life.

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