THERE has been an increase in the number of people attempting
suicide at the East Sussex beauty spot Beachy Head over recent
The Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team (BHCT), which has saved more
than 2000 lives since it began operations in 2004, reported 604
searches on the cliff up to the end of August this year. Some 252
people were saved. This compares with 428 and 423 searches for the
comparable period in 2012 and 2011.
In July, 76 searches were made, and 32 people were saved. In
August, there were 92 searches, and 41 despondent people saved.
There were 771 searches on cliffs by the BHCT last year, and 305
despondent people were saved.
"At the current rate, we are going to reach one rescue a day
dealt with by us very soon," the director of the chaplaincy team,
Mark Pybus, said.
Typical of the calls received by the BCHT was an incident that
occurred at 12.20 on Sunday 15 August. "The team received a request
by Sussex Police to assist in a search for a missing middle-aged
woman, whose car had been found at Beachy Head. The woman was found
on the cliff edge by the team, after a short search, and was spoken
to by BHCT chaplains and negotiators from Sussex Police.
"After approximately three hours, the female was successfully
escorted to safety from the clifftop," a spokesperson for BHCT
The chaplaincy conducts routine searches, and is also tipped off
by emergency services, coastguard, the local pub or café, or
members of the public about potential suicide attempts. Not all
searches result in finding a person.
he trustees of BHCT are reluctant about giving too much detail,
as in the wrong hands it could enable people to avoid the
chaplaincy teams and achieve their aim of taking their own
Since 2004, when the BHCT was set up, it has responded to 5868
searches and incidents, resulting in the rescue of 2129 despondent
The chaplaincy began with six volunteers. It now has about 20
people working for it. Team members are trained in negotiation
techniques to try to establish connections with despondent people
at the clifftop. As well as talking to people who appear
"We have rescued 252 people so far; so that is looking like
another record year," Mr Pybus said. "It is hard to say exactly why
there has been such a rise, but the recession has a part to play.
Financial reasons usually have a part to play, but it is usually a
number of things coming together."
The chaplaincy team is concerned that insensitive media
publicity surrounding deaths at Beachy Head also encourages people
to come and attempt to take their lives. They point to the case of
a family who died on 1 June 2009.
Neil and Kazumi Puttick killed themselves at Beachy Head after
their five-year-old son, Sam, died of meningitis. The case drew
international media attention, and in the week that followed, the
BHCT conducted 33 searches, saving 15 despondent people. Similar
patterns have been noted with other cases.