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Golden Gate Bridge Officials Vote for Suicide Net

 
 
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 07:18 am
Golden Gate Officials Vote for Suicide Net
by Sudhin Thanawala - AP
October 11, 2008

SAN FRANCISCO - Golden Gate Bridge officials voted overwhelmingly Friday to hang stainless steel nets from the sides of the world-famous span in an effort to stop people from jumping to their deaths.

After decades of discussion about a suicide barrier, the Golden Gate Transportation District's board of directors voted 14-1 in favor of the net system. They rejected several other options to prevent suicide jumps, including extending the existing four-foot railings and leaving the iconic span unchanged.

Golden Gate Bridge officials voted 14-1 to hang stainless steel nets below the iconic landmark to prevent suicide jumps. More than 1,200 people have leaped to their deaths since the bridge opened 71 years ago. Bridge officials say 19 people have jumped so far this year.

The vote, which marked a shift in the board's attitude about a barrier, was a victory for mental health experts and victims' family members, who have long argued the barrier would prevent impulsive suicides.

"I believe most people, knowing that a quick, easy, momentary thing is not available, ... will find solutions," Ken Holmes, Marin County's coroner and a supporter of the barrier, said in interview. "You'll take your medication, talk to the person who broke your heart ... tell your mom you didn't mean to wreck the car."

The graceful, rust-colored bridge -- a California icon with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay -- has long lured people looking to end their lives. More than 1,200 have plunged to their deaths from the span since it opened in 1937. Thirty-eight people leaped last year and 19 have jumped so far this year, according to bridge officials.

John Brooks, 52, said his daughter Caley's jump from the bridge in January was a "complete shock," because she was doing well in school and on her way to college. "There is a good chance that had a barrier been there, she'd still be here," said Brooks, who lives in nearby Tiburon.

But opponents say a barrier on the bridge will not prevent people from killing themselves. Suicidal people, they say, will find other ways to take their lives and would be better served by additional funding for mental health treatment.

None of the options before the board would have seriously marred the appearance of the landmark, according to a draft environmental impact report in July. But the report said proposals for higher railings would have a greater impact on views from the bridge than the net.

About half of the roughly 4,000 people recently surveyed by the bridge district said they favored leaving the bridge unaltered.

Mill Valley resident Clark Hinderleider said the bridge authority should not be responsible for the mental health of people using the bridge. "We should be able to help these people long before they get to the bridge," Hinderleider, 62, said after the meeting Friday.

Board members said the steel nets, which would hang 20 feet below the bridge and extend about 20 feet from each side, would prevent suicides without harming the bridge's appearance. "This is a vote ... to save lives," said board member Lynne Segal.

The bridge district debated whether to install suicide barriers in the 1970s and 1990s but did not approve any of them until now. "There has been a major shift in the attitude (on the board)," board member Tom Ammiano said in a recent interview.

Ammiano and other advocates of a barrier say emotional accounts from family members of the dead helped sway the board. And so did the 2006 film, "The Bridge," which captured people jumping from the span, said Paul Muller, a board member of The Bridge Rail Foundation.

"That film puts the horror on a world stage," said Muller, who called the movie "embarrassing" for bridge officials.

The net system, expected to cost $40 million to $50 million, still requires a final environmental review.

Board member Joanne Sanders proposed a pedestrian toll to cover the expense. But Ammiano said he has been seeking federal and state funding.
Board member James Eddie, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said he was worried about the project would be funded. "I want to ensure if we build it, we're not indebting our children," he said.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 5 • Views: 4,085 • Replies: 34
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dyslexia
 
  2  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 07:28 am
how sad!
0 Replies
 
shewolfnm
 
  2  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 07:44 am
I dont care what anyone says.
This is a horrid thing to do. And I wish people would stop trying to control other people. The bridge is not the only thing in the world people do to kill themselves and nothing someone will do to a bridge will stop people from committing suicide .
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 07:51 am
@shewolfnm,
They put a 'net' on the viaduct here in Toronto. It's apparently made a difference in the numbers - at least in people who commit suicide using a 'destination' location. Apparently it does have some kind of effect. The phones they've put on the viaduct probably helped as well.

I was thinking the other week, as I drove over it, that it looks better from the deck level than I'd expected when they were still arguing about design. Sort of ship rigging-y.
shewolfnm
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 08:06 am
@ehBeth,
but how does anyone know if it makes a difference?
If I want to jump off of a bridge, find out I cant because of some net , then I go shoot myself, how would you or anyone else know that I planned on using the bridge first?

If I am the type of person who wants to jump off of a bridge, or cliff.. why wouldn't I just pick another destination?
Or just use another method?

ehBeth
 
  0  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 08:22 am
@shewolfnm,
How do we know it makes a difference? we talk to people.

Suicide's a pretty heavily studied area.

Some people have specific methods and/or locations in mind. If they are thwarted, they don't want to use other methods or locations. Many/most are already in a strange place mentally/emotionally. That they get stuck on a method/location isn't that much stranger.

Crisis lines get calls from people who are seriously pissed off because they can't commit suicide the way they want to - it's sometimes the only reason an intervention can be done.
0 Replies
 
ebrown p
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 08:42 am
On first thought, I agree with Shewolf.

But... I would be interested to see if there are any studies on how these measure affect overall suicide rates. I might be convinced to support a net if there was research clearly showing that people weren't just changing methods.

Putting telephones on these locations is a great idea (and easy to tell if they are being used).
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 09:01 am
@ebrown p,
The studies are out there (I'm not sure how to access the academic sites though, I only know them in hard copy and intranets).

The Bloor Street Viaduct's phones get a fair bit of action. I often see police cruisers at one end of the bridge or the other, when I pass by on an evening. It used to be a fairly busy jumping location. There are similar bridges north and south of the viaduct - they don't get used nearly as frequently.

here's a piece from the sfgate that refers to the studies that Toronto looked at

sfgate

Quote:
"We were interested in this bridge, rather than subways where people also commit suicide, because it was a magnet -- people were coming from all over to jump," Birney said. "The old argument is: If they don't go here, they'll go somewhere else. That was a red herring. We knew we were right.''


Quote:
In Toronto, public opinion was mixed, and opponents voiced concern that building a suicide barrier at the Bloor Street Viaduct would only divert jumpers to another bridge. Among the material presented to the Toronto council was a study concerning two Washington, D.C., bridges, the Duke Ellington and the Taft. The structures were a block apart, but the Ellington bridge was the favorite of the suicide-prone. When a suicide barrier was installed on the Ellington bridge in 1986, suicides there stopped, and the rate of suicide at the Taft bridge did not increase.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 09:07 am
@ebrown p,
The viaduct in Toronto was the number 2 jumping site in North America. There hasn't been one there since the veil was installed.

I'm not suggesting that there have been no suicides in Toronto since the veil was installed, but the overall numbers in Toronto have decreased.

Since the viaduct was a 'destination' suicide location, i.e. people travelled here to jump from the viaduct, I've wondered if other locations had a proportional increase, but there's been nothing in the news about that.
0 Replies
 
patiodog
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 09:26 am
I wonder if this will spur Seattle to similar actions for the Aurora Bridge...

(Which I knew as the Aurora Ave bridge, or the Suicide Bridge...)
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 09:33 am
@patiodog,
That's a good article, pdog.

"A followup study on people rescued ... suggest that other means will not be substituted".
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 09:39 am
@ehBeth,
The Seiden reference helped me find this

further r.h. seiden reference (one of the first ones that wasn't a pdf of his research)

Quote:
Opponents to fences on bridges (known as a “suicide barrier” in these discussions) cite the belief that people will just find another way to commit suicide. And yet all of the research data we have suggests that for the vast majority of people, that is simply untrue. It’s one of those repeated false beliefs that has no backing of actual data.

That’s because suicide is an irrational act, but people engage in discussions about people who are temporarily suicidal as though they were making rational decisions and choices. “Hey, if they find a fence on our bridge, they’ll just go home and shoot themselves,” is one common refrain from opponents. Luckily for most people, this isn’t the case. People choose very specific means to end their lives, and they generally don’t switch between methods. And most don’t find other methods.

Richard Seiden, a professor emeritus and psychologist at the University of California, published a study showing that the vast majority of people who are thwarted from jumping from a bridge don’t go on to commit suicide:

In the late 1970s, Seiden set out to test the notion of inevitability in jumping suicides. Obtaining a Police Department list of all would-be jumpers who were thwarted from leaping off the Golden Gate between 1937 and 1971 " an astonishing 515 individuals in all " he painstakingly culled death-certificate records to see how many had subsequently “completed.” His report, “Where Are They Now?” (PDF) remains a landmark in the study of suicide, for what he found was that just 6 percent of those pulled off the bridge went on to kill themselves.

He also published a ground-breaking article (Seiden & Spence, 1982) that looked at the suicide rates between the two bridges in San Francisco, the Golden Gate and the Oakland Bay Bridge, and wasn’t surprised to find the Golden Gate is the more popular suicide magnet. One in which over 2,000 people have jumped to their deaths from since its opening in 1937.

Need more evidence? Another study conducted in England also found a significant reduction in suicides (more than 50%) after a fence was installed on the local bridge (Bennewith et al., 2007). Just as importantly, they also found no evidence of increased jumping from other sites in the geographic region due to the erection of the fences.


Quote:
“At the risk of stating the obvious,” Seiden said, “people who attempt suicide aren’t thinking clearly. They might have a Plan A, but there’s no Plan B. They get fixated. They don’t say, ‘Well, I can’t jump, so now I’m going to go shoot myself.’ And that fixation extends to whatever method they’ve chosen. They decide they’re going to jump off a particular spot on a particular bridge, or maybe they decide that when they get there, but if they discover the bridge is closed for renovations or the railing is higher than they thought, most of them don’t look around for another place to do it. They just retreat.”


Quote:
“The more obstacles you can throw up, the more you move it away from being an impulsive act. And once you’ve done that, you take a lot of people out of the game. If you look at how people get into trouble, it’s usually because they’re acting impulsively, they haven’t thought things through,” noted Matthew Miller, the associate director of the Injury Control Research Center, in the New York Times article. Time. That’s what most people who are thinking irrationally need. And that’s what a suicide barrier provides.

This misperception that we cannot stop people from hurting themselves is false " research data shows that we can. Because suicide is often an irrational, in-the-moment act, simple barriers are extremely effective in helping a person make the choice to live another day until the crisis has past.
0 Replies
 
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 09:41 am
@patiodog,
source doc. the urge to end it all
0 Replies
 
InfraBlue
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 01:36 pm
A couple of weeks ago Robert had posted a thread about suicides at the Golden Gate Bridge
The Bridge: A Movie about Golden Gate Bridge Jumpers
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 01:41 pm
@ebrown p,
ebrown p wrote:
But... I would be interested to see if there are any studies on how these measure affect overall suicide rates. I might be convinced to support a net if there was research clearly showing that people weren't just changing methods.


If you are curious you can read a lot about it in this thread about the bridge and suicide.

Quote:
Putting telephones on these locations is a great idea (and easy to tell if they are being used).


Suicide barriers are more effective, they tend to have success rate in the high 90's.

Suicide is very impulsive, most people deterred do not commit suicide if they can be prevented from doing so within a certain time frame.

Certain types of suicide are much more appealing than others, there is a draw to certain types of death and the beauty and simplicity of the golden gate bridge is a huge draw.

Sure, some people are going to find other ways, but others will be saved by the proverbial fence at the top of the suicide magnet.

I don't have the patience to dig up all the research right now, but the articles linked to in the thread I gave above address a lot of these.
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 02:10 pm
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
BumbleBeeBoogie wrote:
Ammiano and other advocates of a barrier say emotional accounts from family members of the dead helped sway the board. And so did the 2006 film, "The Bridge," which captured people jumping from the span, said Paul Muller, a board member of The Bridge Rail Foundation.

"That film puts the horror on a world stage," said Muller, who called the movie "embarrassing" for bridge officials.


That's interesting. In our discussions about the film there was debate about whether or not the film would serve to romanticize suicide and increase its rates or if it might bring about some useful change.

I still have mixed feelings about the film, but it sounds like it did help bring about this change. This is an about face for San Francisco.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  0  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 02:33 pm
@BumbleBeeBoogie,
Halleluljah!
0 Replies
 
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 03:12 pm
Another article from the LA Times:

Golden Gate Bridge to get suicide net to catch would-be jumpers

Quote:
Writing to the board last summer, San Francisco resident Paul J. Miller expressed a view that many others had raised: "Attention should be given to mental health assistance," he wrote, "not paying tens of millions of dollars to contractors who are just trying to milk money from citizens."

On the other hand, the Psychiatric Foundation of Northern California has supported the idea, contending that the effectiveness of barriers has been "dramatic" at such landmarks as the Empire State Building and Eiffel Tower.

The group also cites a study of 515 people who were stopped from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. It concluded that 94% of them were alive or had died naturally long after their thwarted attempts.
ehBeth
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 03:18 pm
@Robert Gentel,
That references the material/studies patiodog and I linked to earlier in this thread.
Robert Gentel
 
  1  
Reply Sun 12 Oct, 2008 03:19 pm
@ehBeth,
I've got them all open in tabs to read, thanks!
0 Replies
 
 

 
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