Boninovo Love Locks Burnish Suicide Safety Net

"Love locks" on a fence erected to prevent suicides high over the Adriatic Sea in Dubrovnik, Croatia.
Two New Jersey women continue to fight back years after a cluster of young adult suicides in their beach town. Photo: Author’s own.

On a dizzying cliff in Boninovo, Croatia, high above the Adriatic, padlocks of all shapes and colors cling to a chain-link fence, couple’s names engraved or Sharpied on their metal flanks, their keys flung into the sea below in dramatic pledges of undying love.

“Love Lock” sites like this one have multiplied around the world, from Paris to Moscow to Prague, their origins unclear, an Italian novel and an ancient Chinese tradition mentioned as possible inspirations.

In Boninovo, however, there is more to this story. The three-foot fence glittering with hundreds of locks was placed there by local officials as a suicide prevention barrier. A 2015 study in Lancet Psychiatry supports the premise that restricting access to a suicide ‘hot spot’ can delay the action, allowing time for intervention.

More than 800,000 individuals each year take their own lives, according to World Health Organization estimates. In September, Suicide Prevention Month,  communities around the globe encourage citizens to “Connect, Communicate and Care” through events ranging from bike rides to concerts to candlelight vigils to butterfly releases.

Community engagement is key to reducing suicide. Today, I’m highlighting two courageous suicide prevention and awareness initiatives in my own community, a family-friendly beach town primarily renowned for its surfing beaches until a cluster of young adult suicides in the last decade aimed a more somber spotlight on us.

The first is WITHOUT TIM (Lisa Schenke, 2013), a brave and candid book by local resident Lisa Schenke, whose oldest son Tim was the first to take his life in this cluster. After Tim’s death, Lisa became passionate about getting the message out to struggling teens and young adults to celebrate and embrace life, and assisting others through the grieving process after a loss of a child or loved one. Her book chronicles her journey through the years just after Tim’s death as she grieves and rebuilds her relationships with her family, other struggling youth, the community, God, and—most difficult of all—herself.

This morning, Lisa will once again lead Team Timfinite during the sixth annual Jersey Shore Out of the Darkness Walk, an event she helped to spearhead and actively promotes. Learn more about Lisa and her resources for teens, parents, family and friends in the face of suicide at withouttim.com.

The second local initiative is You Can NOT Be Replaced®, launched in 2013 in response to the seventh local high school suicide in the cluster. Founded by Melissa and Chip Dayton, parents of eight children, You Can NOT Be Replaced emphasizes the irreplaceable value of life and the power and influence each person has to impact others for good.

Through outreach to schools and community organizations, the You Can NOT Be Replaced program and passable wristband project has impacted 31,000 students across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Additionally, Melissa Dayton has authored Crushed: When Parenting is Hard: A Journey to Strength and Hope (CreateSpace, 2016), a guidebook designed to help those struggling with the challenges of parenting.

Both of these works by my friends and fellow authors are excellent resources to engage families and communities not only in suicide prevention but also in positive parenting.

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