If You Prevent It, They Won't Do It

<p>The Golden Gate Bridge has a four foot railing along its pedestrian sidewalk. Mental health advocates have long demanded that a barrier be placed to prevent those intent on suicide from jumping, and point to studies showing why it is needed.</p>
March 5, 2008, 1pm PST | Irvin Dawid
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Comments

High School teacher Ken Baldwin jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge in a suicide attempt almost 23 years ago and survived, as have only about 2% of the 1,300 leapers. In fact, a suicide is attempted off the landmark bridge about once every 10 days. "Yet for seven decades, the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District has pushed aside evidence that prompted the construction of effective barriers on other bridges and landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower in Paris."

One argument against building the barrier is to not alter its appearance, Yet,"the bridge district this year found $25 million to install a movable median to divide two-way traffic on the bridge, where a total of five head-on collisions have claimed a single life since 1997." [See related link].

A "University of California survey found that nine out of 10 people prevented from jumping off the Golden Gate (by passersby or by the patrols that roam the bridge looking for likely jumpers) were still alive years later or had died of natural causes, despite the rationale that a barrier would prompt them only to "go somewhere else to end it.

The study is part of a growing body of scientific literature that explodes persistent myths about suicide while reinforcing a simple principle: When it is harder to kill oneself, fewer people do so."

"Advocates note that British authorities reached past the taboos that swirl about suicide to address it as a public health issue. Understanding that reducing "easy access to lethal means" translates into saved lives, the Brits stopped the sale of non-steroidal painkillers in bulk, making the pills available only in blister packs."

Thanks to MTC library

Full Story:
Published on Monday, March 3, 2008 in The Washington Post
Share Tweet LinkedIn Email