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Beachy Head is the highest point on the south coast of England. It's spectacular beauty is tempered by the knowledge that it is also the 3rd most popular suicide spot in the world (behind Aokigahara Woods in Japan and the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco).

Intrigued by this landscape that was only an hour's bus ride away from my home in Brighton, I decided to spend most of January and February 2006 roaming it's cliff tops, trying to capture with my camera the uneasy relationship between Beachy Head's natural beauty and the tragedy of so many suicides (average 13 per year). On my 4th visit, a bitterly cold and windy Sunday, I was taking a picture of a man who was standing by the cliff edge as the sun began to go down. It turned out he was suicidal and within seconds Police specialists arrived and talked him out of jumping. I walked further along the cliff and came across another man who kept shuffling a few steps to the cliff edge and back again. I asked if he was ok and he said he was. As I headed back towards the Police to ask them to keep an eye on him I spotted a 3rd lone figure sat shivering amidst some bushes, the other side of the flimsy wire fence that sporadicaly guards the cliff edge. I told the Police about the other two potential jumpers and hopped on my last bus home.

On subsequent visits I saw every lone figure as a potential suicide case and became self-conscious that being alone myself made me look suspicious to others. I just found it impossible to experience Beachy Head without thinking of what was going through all those minds as they took their last steps towards the sheer drop. To me the most striking thing about Beachy Head is that you can just literally step off the edge of England into oblivion. In the words of a person who tried to commit suicide there and survived, "All you have to do is keep on walking".*


* Quote from Tom Hunt's book, see opposite >


Recommended reading:

Cliffs of Despair-

A Journey to Suicide's Edge

by Tom Hunt

(Published by Random House)

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