Golden Gate Suicide Barrier approved
As we reported earlier today, it looks like the Golden Gate Bridge will finally get a suicide barrier:

After decades worth of engineering studies and heated debate, Golden Gate Bridge officials have voted to erect a suicide barrier …

20 Comments to
Golden Gate Bridge To Get a Suicide Net

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  1. I’m from San Francisco & have bipolar & have had suicide attempts & my mother successfully committed suicide. At some point I think we have to realize we cannot protect a suicidal person from committing suicide if he is determined to do so. My mother used a plastic bag over her head. So outlaw plastic bags?

    They are much more available than the Golden Gate Bridge.

    I think suicide prevention needs to look more at the reason for suicides than at the method. The determined person will always find a way. Let’s find a way to help him not be that desperate. The leading way to commit suicide world-wide is the ingestion of pesticides! I didn’t know that until I read an article in an industry journal where they are trying to figure out how to make their products less “suicide friendly.”

    But I don’t want to put ideas in anyone’s head. There are much easier methods than going to the Golden Gate Bridge. And for some there is a symbolic reason behind the bridge jump, but there is symbolism everywhere in these kinds of acts. We need to be looking at the WHY much more than the HOW, in my opinion.

  2. this barrier net has an “estimated cost between $40 to $50 million” and like most every other government construction job, will no doubt be much closer to $100 million in cost over runs and corruption. tag on many thousands a year in maintenance the net will demand. the net will stop many suicides from the bridge, but it will never stop everyone that wants to end their life by jumping from the golden gate bridge. a net may catch the jumpers, but they will figure out a way around a net. then there is the very likelihood that anyone caught in the net and injured in any way, will sue and win large sums of money for having created a structure that injures people that jump into it. anyone caught in the net will also need to be rescued from it. the rescuers will also likely get injured doing their job and that too will result in lawsuits and disability issues. sorry, john, but your cute little net will not save everyone. those that are stopped may well find another way to check themselves out. you will never stop suicide and you should stop worrying so much about it. people have the right to die by their own hand and you need to let them make up their own minds.

  3. in addendum: your bridge has about 20 suicides a year. it would take 50 years of bridge jumpers to equal the suicide rate of one single day of cigarette smokers. in this country alone, one thousand people a day extinguish their lives through all fault of their own with cigarettes. perhaps you should order up a barrier around a pack of smokes.

  4. @phil – Nobody’s looking to stop suicides completely as that’s an unreasonable goal. Just to make it less easy to do so for people who make the decision “in the moment,” as many bridge jumpers have been shown to do in research on this phenomenon. Fences and barriers of this nature simply work and the research proves it.

    As for gov’t corruption, I guess we shouldn’t do any program that enhances social good for that very same reason.

    Heck, let’s stop building roads too, since those are the biggest death traps in the U.S., killing 40,000+ Americans each and every year.

    There are many causes of preventable deaths in the U.S., including 100,000+ from medical mistakes in hospitals. But every neighborhood and community has to look at what makes sense for them. And for the Golden Gate Bridge, this is a no-brainer, easy way to prevent the vast majority of deaths each from the bridge.

  5. New York Times Magazine has a fantastic article about suicide, very much worth reading:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/06/magazine/06suicide-t.html

    The article argues that people who commit suicide usually do so on a fleeting impulse, and that anything which delays or hinder their plans can help prevent them from acting on that impulse.

    I believe that this article was referenced in an earlier post on this blog, but I thought I’d post it again. It really changed the way I think about the whole issue.

  6. we contend that it’s not feasible to expend such a large sum for so few. there are many causes of preventable deaths in the u.s. and of course we should take all logical and concerted efforts to prevent them, but not so many millions for the so few that want to end their lives anyway, regardless if it’s on impulse or not. the real no-brainer is to use the ‘net’ money for the greater good. you have an agenda and we applaud your effort, we just think it’s misguided. here’s an idea, use the ‘net’ money to buy nicotine gum for those that wish to quit smoking. the ‘lives saved’ return would be better then bridge jumpers saved. see, we too have an agenda and feel ours will save more for the dollar then yours will. you can reply if you wish, but we have made our points and will not bother you any more. good luck with your net.

  7. I have looked online for the details about the net, and the only information I’ve found says that the net will be made of steel. Presumably, couldn’t one simply jump down to the net, then jump again? It seems like the vertical bars would have made a better deterrent…

  8. Very interesting article. Thank you for posting that. Of course, there are the ones who are determined & attempt over & over with different methods (as my mother did) until they succeed & there are so many methods available right in your house.

    I know when I had an overdose a couple years ago (I don’t call it a “suicide attempt” though I have had those in the past as I didn’t want to die) I wanted to relieve the intense emotional pain I was in & kept taking the pills trying to get immediate relief & could have died from an “accidental” overdose if my husband had not found me.

    I just simply did not have the coping skills I needed. I’m learning them now, but it is very scary to me that I could get into that state after 5 years of being stable (bipolar 1).

  9. @todd — Good question. The answer is that someone who’s suicidal and is trying to jump from a bridge is acting on an impulse, in the moment. Take the means of acting on that impulse away from a person — or delay it — and the thinking is that will be sufficient for the person to choose life over death.

    The net acts as a means of delaying the impulse. You can read more about how it’s likely to work here:

    http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2008/10/13/how-does-a-bridge-suicide-net-work/

  10. What a situation. This is so controversial because who are we to stop someone who is hurting so much that they need to end it. We don’t have to live their life, feel their pain, or live with grief, etc.
    Yet, some have said that suicide is selfish because of the people who love them who will be without them once they commit suicide. However, the net is good for those who may be under the influence of alcohol or heavy drugs and may try to jump. There may be someone trying to jump immediately after an unreasonable or irrational argument or something really irrational to hurt those who hurt them. Essentially, the net will be helpful I’m sure to those who can be helped by some other means. On the other side of the token, the net will preclude those who are really in need of a way out.
    This is a truly hard decision.

  11. I’m going to be the insensitive A-hole here and say maybe these people jumping off the bridge should not be saved. $40-$50 million?? Are you kidding me? I know a life is priceless, but how much will that work out to be per “saved” jumper? And how many jumpers will try to commit suicide in some other fashion after discovering the net will catch them? Why not put that $40 million to use on suicide prevention tools, education, website, phone hotline, etc?

  12. I can agree with Alex C.’s argument that it’s a valid point, some depressed people may act on a sudden impulse when it comes to suicide. I’ve been on the Golden Gate bridge myself and I cannot imagine any reason that could justify the costs involved for such a project.
    But this would jeopardize more lives also, net installers and maintaining 24/7 the net. DCL is not being insensitive A-hole. How about installing signs that read “Danger There is no safety net!” or

  13. terrific idea! I think a better idea would be to spend the money on more mental health resources. This would prevent suicides and improve the lives of many more.

  14. To Suzanne…
    San Francisco has already banned all plastic bags!

  15. I had a VERY weird experience on the GG Bridge recently; I grew up in SF, crossed the bridge numerous times on foot, bike, car and never had any problem on the bridge. I am not depressed, bipolar, suicidal or even unhappy. I do have a bit of a fear of heights Yet when I recently walked across the bridge with my family (a fun birthday adventure for my son) and I came upon a telephone that was in place to help suicidal individuals I was overtaken with a sudden and absolutely uncontrollable sense of dread about the bridge.

    Years ago someone told me that a fear of heights was actually a fear that a person would purposefully throw him/herself off the height (in other words, it was a fear of suicidality); once I saw that phone, I felt a sudden sense of how easy it would be to fling myself over the railing. I grabbed my husband’s hand and rushed to the other side of the bridge; I absolutely could not wait to get off the bridge because I felt that I could not trust myself to NOT jump over! Then we had to cross back to the other side; I faced my fears and walked as fast as I could and only when I was on solid ground on the SF side did my sense of rationality return.

    Believe it or not, those of you who think it is a waste of money to put up a net, I suddenly had the sense that some jumpers might act on the sudden impulse that only came from being on the bridge and were perhaps not irreversibly suicidal.

    Happily, I returned to my normal self in about 24 hours, after silently feeling extremely embarassed that I could have even felt the way I felt while on the bridge. I found a few websites where others who had had the same experience described exactly how I had felt, so I no longer feel like perhaps I was losing my mind. My only suggestion to everyone thinking about the issue about the proposed nets on the bridge: don’t be too critical of people who have sudden weird impulses; it might happen to you someday when you least expect it!

  16. I don’t want to challenge claims from those that reported impulsive feelings waning after a failed suicide attempt.

    But I do feel that the “landmark study” (http://www.pfnc.org/PFNC-GGBSeidenArticle4.pdf) neglects to consider that the primary reason that so few of the thwarted bridge jumpers eventually succeeded in suicide may just be that they got help from human beings, some professionals, and not just that their attempt was thwarted.

    I guess I see a major difference between being thwarted by a physical impediment and being thwarted by someone who intervened in the spirit of caring.

    I can easily see being blocked by a physical impediment going either the way of postponing the attempt until the impulse subsides OR worsening the desire to end it all by adding one more insult to the fragile soul.

    Couple this with the fact that we have virtually no data by people who didn’t commit suicide because of an inanimate impediment and whether they went on to a successful suicide, and I just can see how people can be so sure that this net will do anything more than reduce the number of people committing suicide on the bridge and not elsewhere. You can believe it will, and perhaps it will, but there’s no statistical evidence that actually PROVES it will.

    - WtBL

  17. Indeed, you can’t prove a negative. Until the net is built, you won’t know how effective it is.

    However, previous studies (and there’s more than one to look at) show that suicide barriers on bridges can and do reduce suicides. It’s that simple.

    Couple that with the fact that a human life is more valuable than, oh, I don’t know, a net or fence?, and I think the answer for most is pretty clear. Especially if that human life is a loved one saved by such a barrier.

  18. What a bunch of crap. If you put a barrior on the GGB, then you have to put one on every tall building, and every other bridge in the area. If someone really wants to kill themself, they will find a way to do it.

  19. I agree, if the intent is truly to commit suicide and the GGB is not an option, they WILL find another way.

  20. There are those who jumped and survived.
    The survivors report instantly regretting the jump.

    Plastic bags may be more available, and so may guns and knifes, but some 40 people jumped off the bridge last year, and we could have stopped them. It is after all easier to take a plastic bag off of your face then it is to fly back up to the railing.

    Maybe the simple knowledge that their fellow citizens care enough about them to try and prevent that jump into the darkness, even if only in this one area that we can control, maybe that will help them.

    Though reading some of your comments would shake anyone’s faith in humanity…

  21. I strongly disagree in the peoples’ comments that say that “a net is not required, and anyone who wants to commit suicide will find a way to do it.” There are some who will find a way to do it, but I believe the majority who commit suicide do it on a fleeting impulse, and deep down, they want help because there is a part of them that still wants to live. A delay to impair their suicidal attempt or assistance to them will help them change their minds. There a lot of people today that are still walking on this earth that have thought of suicide before.

    For the people who want to commit suicide, take away their accessibility to suicide, and later they want to live again. Just read about all the supporting articles that the writer of this story provides, put up a net, and the answer is clear. You can always argue this and that, counteract this and that, but when a solution can save lives, why not act on it. It’s a no brainer, and doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this answer. Sure there are many other ways to spend the money, but this should help. Imagine if it was your mother or brother.

  22. What’s the point in putting nets on the bridge? I would jump of the bridge to the nets and then jump off and the world is already suffering with population etc. so why just let suicidal people die because who are you to judge? Because you have no clue for what these people are going through. So don’t bother any more. Plus making it illegal to jump of The Golden Gate Bridge is the most stupid thing i have ever heard. I mean if someone is wanting to kill them self and you put them in jail is wrong because it’s just going to make the person feel worse and possible to the most reckless things when they come out. Also the person probably would have jumped anyway. What you going to do about that? arrest their dead body? Just do us all a favour and leave us the fuck alone.

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