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SUICIDE BARRIER ON

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE?

The Golden Gate Bridge is recognized around the world as a graceful, elegant entryway, welcoming the world to the extraordinary bays of Marin and San Francisco. How ironic that it is also the worlds leading site for self-destruction.  As almost anyone living in the Bay Area knows, people kill themselves in large numbers by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge.  Though the official tally is between 1,100 and 1,200, this includes only those whose bodies have been recovered.  The real number of people who jump from the bridge far exceeds this “official” total.

    Our mission at SP&CC is to prevent suicides.  How can we not be alarmed at the fact that right in our backyard is a public structure that provides such ready access for ending one’s life?  How can we not strongly advocate for finding an effective solution to preventing such tragedy?  How can we not be moved to action?
  People who are experiencing emotional pain sometimes act impulsively in a crisis.  Easy access to the bridge, lack of an effective deterrent, and the Bridge’s public reputation as a place to die has resulted in the Golden Gate Bridge becoming a magnet for suicides.

    When some 500 people who were thwarted in their attempts to jump from were asked if they would attempt to end their lives through another method, many said they would not.  Findings support that suicidal behavior is generally crisis-ori-ended and acute in nature, and suggest that a physical barrier on the bridge would, in fact, prevent the vast majority of those deterred from moving on to other means of suicide.  (Dr. Richard Seiden, UC Berkeley, Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior,” Vol. 8 (4), Winter 1978.)  

    There are four main criteria that a suicide barrier must meet.  First, it must not impair the beauty and scenic views from the bridge; second, it must meet engineering standards and not damage the structural integrity of the bridge; third, it must be affordable; and finally, it must effectively prevent suicides.  The Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District Board of Directors is responsible for policy and fiscal issues related to the Bridge. After decades of inaction, the board supported the implementation of a suicide patrol suicide last April. 

    A one-year analysis of this action reveals that the patrol observed 499 people whose behavior was suspicious.” Of these individuals, 49 with suicidal tendencies were taken to the hospital for observation and 19 suicides occurred. These facts endorse the belief that the bridge attracts people who may be prone to suicide and that the patrol is not an effective deterrent.

    At a recent meeting of the Bridge Board, members voted to contract with a Danville fencing company to design and test a prototype of a suicide deterrent system barrier.  This development reflects a significant commitment on the part of the board to seriously examine a more effective alternative to prevent suicide.  As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, it is out hope that the Bridge will become a beacon of light and life, and not a Mecca for death. If you believe that it’s time for action now please join our coalition to prevent suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Call Margaret Hallett,
SUICIDES PREVENTION & COMMUNITY COUNSELING
(SP& CC) Director at 499-1193

 

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