The Golden Gate Bridge is a marvel of modern engineering despite its age. It is so large that once painting crews finish going in one direction, they must start over once again. It’s also large enough to be a tempting place from which to jump because it is difficult to have an emergency response arrive in time.
In 2013, Golden Gate Bridge suicides reached an all-time high with 46 people choosing to end their lives.
Golden Gate Bridge Facts
In order to prevent even more tragedies, there are some calls to install nets below the bridge to prevent suicides from occurring by jumping off the bridge. A number of families note that the decision often ends up being an impulsive one, not a planned one, and the nets would help to prevent a number of tragedies.
- More than 1600 people have committed suicide by jumping off of the bridge since it opened in 1937.
- $45 million is required to install suicide prevention nets below the bridge.
- It only takes 4 seconds to drop the 260 feet down to the water below and with impacts at 75 mph, very few survive the initial impact of the water.
It’s a careful balance between public safety and public rights that must be walked. Should a city invest in providing a safety feature on the bridge so that one form of suicide can be prevented? Would the $45 million, or just under $1 million per life that was lost on the bridge due to suicide in 2013, be better served in social programming that can help to treat the root causes of suicide in the first place. There’s no easy answer here, but there is one thing that is for certain: something needs to be done about this issue.
What You Need to Know About Golden Gate Bridge Suicides
- 206 people committed suicide by jumping off the bridge from 1997 to 2007.
- Only 33% of the people who have committed suicide from the bridge were residents of San Francisco.
- Bridge railings were thought to be the solution to this problem, but the engineering feat to create a railing that can withstand 100 mph winds would cost about as much as the nets.
- There are suicide prevention hotline phones along the path on the bridge so that people can access help before making a final decision.
- Pedestrian access has been eliminated at nightfall to further prevent suicides from occurring.
- Security has been placed along the bridge instead of just at the entry points to further assist potential jumpers.
- Only 26 people are known to have survived the initial impact. One woman has jumped from the bridge twice to complete a suicide attempt in the bridge’s history.
- The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District Board OKed a $76 million suicide net funding plan in June of 2014.
If someone is determined to end their life, there really isn’t much that can be done to prevent this from happening. Once a decision has been made, persuading that person to make a different decision can be extremely difficult. That’s why it is so important to recognize the warning signs of suicidal thoughts and idealization during its early stages so that interventions can have a better chance of success. It is clear that something else does need to be done. With a record high of suicides last year, these last ditch efforts just aren’t good enough.
Is There Anything That Can Be Done?
- Bridge workers were able to prevent 118 suicides in 2013 alone.
- There is a suicide attempt at the Golden Gate Bridge almost every other day, making it one of the most popular suicide spots in the world today.
- Suicides outpaced traffic accidents in the United States in 2013.
- Commissioners are planning to reverse policies and use toll monies to help with the installation of a suicide barrier in addition to bridge maintenance and transportation services.
- Some state officials have called the suicide rates on the Golden Gate Bridge a “public health hazard.”
- The primary reason why people choose the bridge as the place to jump is because they believe their impact will be painless.
- 90% of people who had attempted to commit suicide off the Golden Gate bridge are still alive 7 years later when interventions are successful.
The proactive nature of an intervention seems to be the best way to stop suicides from happening. Although some complaints exist about altering the aesthetics of the bridge and there are reasonable concerns about changing the wind flow that occurs around the bridge, the facts about intervention don’t lie. When 9 out of 10 people who tried to kill themselves on the bridge were prevented from doing so, they were still alive or had died of natural causes 7 years later. That cannot be ignored.
Final Facts to Consider
- The largest age demographic that attempts suicide off of the Golden Gate Bridge are 20-30 year olds.
- The change in reporting annual suicide rates instead of overall suicides has shown to discourage even more attempts.
- A case of Snapple was offered to the family of the 1,000th jumper in 1995.
- In July 2013, there was a 24 hour period where 4 people were successful in their suicide attempts.
- The bridge district has increased the amount of patrols, specific training, and awareness of other bridge staff, including painters, to quickly respond to an incident should it occur.
This seems to be a case of being too close to a problem to see it clearly. Motorists still encourage people to jump when they see them. Offering prizes to family members is tacky at best. The climate is beginning to shift in regards to the issue, but more work needs to be done. If a suicide barrier could be installed and more proactive approaches taken, there is a very real possibility that the suicide rates could drop from their recent record highs quite dramatically.
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