Extra volunteers have been recruited to patrol a notorious suicide spot after a record number of people had to be persuaded not to kill themselves.
Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team has added six new volunteers to its existing team of 19 lifesavers patrolling Europe’s most infamous suicide spot.
The service said it had seen the number of rescues at the cliffs, near Eastbourne, rise 9% in 2012 – as the team prepares for its busiest time of the year.
The number of distressed people visiting the beauty spot has reached such worrying highs that Sussex Police has donated money to fund extra help to try to prevent more deaths.
The news emerged on the day that an inquest will be held into the deaths of a mother and son who travelled to Beachy Head to kill themselves.
'Strain on service'
Ross Hardy, the director at the chaplaincy team, said: “We are expanding our team.
“There has been a lot of strain on the service as we have been seeing such high demand. We have rescued something like 290 people this year.
"That would be a record. It is hard to say exactly why there has been such a rise but we do tend to see a peak in times of recession.
“People always have different reasons for their own personal circumstances, but financial troubles do tend to have an impact on other aspects on people’s lives.
“At Christmas it can be a time that some people find particularly hard. For us as a team it does tend to be busier nearer Christmas.
“We are on patrol 365 days a year but this can be one of the busiest times.”
By the end of October the chaplaincy service had attended more than 266 rescues, the total number of rescues in the whole of last year.
The number of people being coaxed back from the edge has more than doubled since 2006.
So far this year the volunteers have assisted in more than 700 searches at the cliffs.
The chaplaincy was launched in August 2004 with just six volunteers.
Team members are trained in negotiation techniques similar to those used by law enforcement agencies around the world to try to establish connections with despondent people at the cliff top and try to diffuse high levels of stress.
As well as talking to people who appear distressed and who look like they intend to jump, they also work with the Coastguard and emergency services to try to save lives.
The service has been able to pay for equipment and uniforms for its new team members thanks to a donation of £400 from the Sussex Police Christian Fellowship.
Mr Hardy added: “This donation is a fantastic thing for us, helping to equip our volunteers to be out there every day of the year.
"We provide a listening service and an offer of support but the weather conditions can be pretty unforgiving on the top of the cliffs.”
Beachy Head is widely considered to be Europe’s most prevalent suicide spot, resulting in around 20 deaths a year.
An inquest will today (December 18) be held into the deaths of mother and son Christopher and Elizabeth Gosling who jumped from the cliffs in an apparent suicide pact in March.
The pair travelled from their home in Cardiff the day before their deaths and took a grim final trip to Eastbourne, spending the night in the area, before driving their car to the cliff top the next morning.
Two days earlier Mr Gosling, 58, had been arrested on suspicion of possessing child abuse pictures and questioned before being released on bail.
An inquest is due to be heard at Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court this afternoon.
Anyone considering suicide can call the Samaritans for help and support 24 hours and day on 08457 909090.
To make a donation send cheques payable to the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team, 80 Wish Hill Eastbourne BN20 9HA or visit bhct.org.uk.
See the latest news headlines from The Argus:
- Police officer suspended over selling sex while on sick leave allegations
- Petition calling for Southern to be sacked delivered to Number 10
- Thousands of Post Office staff set to strike prompting Christmas chaos fears
- Train compensation scheme "does not go far enough"
- Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver backs #MincePieMonday campaign to raise money for Brighton charity