Bridges of Hope returns to Waterloo

On Saturday, Oct. 5, the Bridges of Hope Project will be hosting an event at Waterloo Park in hopes of bringing mental health awareness and support to the forefront of the Waterloo community.

The Bridges of Hope Project was founded by Olivia Miller and Greta Dotzert in 2018, during their final year of high school. It was created with the purpose of reducing the stigma surrounding mental health discourse and making positive changes to the community through attaching uplifting messages on frequently traveled bridges in the Waterloo Region.

“We go to different bridges in the community throughout the year and we attend different conferences to speak about mental health openly, just to provide that positivity to people around us,” said Miller, Co-founder and Director of the Bridges of Hope Project.

Their inspiration for the project came from Miller and Dotzert’s own experiences with mental health at their high school, where they saw that many of their peers were unhappy and struggling.

“We wanted to create some kind of simple gesture showing them that there is hope and that people are talking about mental health,” said Miller.

The idea to decorate bridges across the region with positive messages came from the story of a student in the UK who had decorated a popular bridge with positive affirmations as a form of suicide prevention.

We wanted to create some kind of simple gesture showing them that there is hope and that people are talking about mental health.

— Olivia Miller, co-founder of the Bridges of Hope Project

“We heard about a specific project done by a teenager in Sunderland UK who had done a similar thing to a bridge where there had been frequent suicides,” Miller said. “And she saved over 15 lives by doing that.”

The upcoming event will take place at the Waterloo Park bridge and will run from 1 to 3 p.m. Those who wish to attend and attach their own personalized message to the bridge are encouraged to register for the event on the Bridges of Hope Project website.

In addition to decorating the bridge with personalized positive messages, the upcoming event at Waterloo Park will include live music, a variety of speakers from across Ontario, interactive engagements for mental health and a mental health market with vendors and services.

The Bridges of Hope Project focuses on showing compassion and understanding to others and encouraging people to speak openly and acceptingly to others on mental health struggles.

“There’s a lot of people who want to make connections with others but just don’t necessarily know how and I think it’s important to break those barriers and provide open communication throughout the community,” said Miller. In the age of social media, the messages spread by the Bridges of Hope Project are especially important.

“I think that it’s really easy to compare your life to the lives of others and the snapshots of good moments you’re seeing on someone’s social media pages, and I think we need bring more awareness to the fact that we’re really only seeing what other people want us to see,” said Miller.

“It’s really important to turn that around and be open and honest and just create a platform where it is acceptable to not be okay and to be doing the best that you can.”

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