Well, If Everyone Jumped Off A Bridge . . . .
Then would it be worth $2m?
The Chronicle reports today that the GG Bridge District benefits from federal money it wasn’t previously aware of, that it will use for a $2m suicide barrier study.
Two MILLION Dollars? Wow.
Obviously, any form of suicide barrier is controverisal – pitting families of victims against those interestes in protecting the Golden Gate’s architectural and artistic integrity.
In the few articles I’ve read on the topic (there’s a nice collection of them listed in the article’s sidebar), I’ve yet to see any really good depiction of what such a barrier would look like. All I can imagine is a higher fence or railing that would discourage jumpers. It’s a pretty easy vault right now.
I only recently became a frequent Bridge pedestrian. It is a little scary up there: a waist or chest high railing and then nothing but the clear blue sea. Having lost a friend to suicide (cliff-diving, in his case) during high school, I’m sensitive to family desires to protect other families from similar pain.
But would it work?
I’ve read several studies showing that while women attempt suicide more often, men actually commit suicide more often. Men are more likely to choose methods that are less likely to fail (guns over medication, etc). Those who choose the Bridge, I would assume, are more sure about their purposes. One wonders, then, how effective a suicide barrier would be.
In other words, though the number of attempts from the Golden Gate Bridge would decrease – would suicide rates in the Bay Area change at all?
One writer cites a 1978 Berkeley study of 500 people who had been prevented from jumping. Only 6% went on to commit suicide another way. How many others contemplated or tried, however, aside from those who were “prevented?” There are as many unknown variables in such studies as there are states of mind.
Would the $2m approved for the study – and the $15 – 25m for the barrier itself – be better spent on mental health programs? Suicide prevention and intervention programs?
This is a case where the “how” detracts a dangerous amount of attention from the “why,” along with uglying up the Golden Gate Bridge – a stereotypical San Francisco landmark even I have come to appreciate lately – specifically for its unfettered views of the city and the Pacific.