Back in 2008 — a decade ago — we noted that the good folks who oversee the Golden Gate Bridge finally approved a suicide barrier for this iconic landmark. Every year, 30 to 50 people jump from the bridge. With a 98 percent fatality rate, the chances of survival are poor.
Six years later in 2014, we noted that a specific barrier type was approved for the Golden Gate Bridge — a wire-mesh netting that would be mostly out-of-sight tucked underneath the bridge. Construction was expected to be completed by 2018.
Here it is August 2018, and still no suicide barrier has been erected at the Golden Gate Bridge. What’s going on?
Suicide barriers — whether they be a net like this one, or a higher fence — are very effective in reducing the number of people contemplating or attempting to jump to their death (and in some cases, completely effective).
Because of its iconic, beautiful nature, the Golden Gate Bridge has long attracted hundreds of suicidal people to it. Each year, somewhere between 150 and 300 people attempt to jump from the bridge. Thankfully, most are saved by trained crisis workers. But dozens more sadly are still successful in jumping to their death.
In 2016, for instance, there 184 successful interventions and only 39 confirmed suicide deaths. In 2017, there were 245 successful interventions, and only 33 confirmed suicide deaths, according to the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.
Since the suicide barrier was first approved in 2008, it is estimated that more than 300 people have lost their lives jumping off of the bridge. With the updated completion date now set for 2021, the three-year delay will add more than 100 more souls to the bridge’s gruesome death count.
Work has finally begun on the Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier. Last week, the construction crew began delivering crates of equipment and tools to the worksite on the bridge deck.
After constructing platforms for the builders, work will begin adding brackets to the bridge that will support architectural struts. Those struts, in turn, will support the stainless-steel, marine-grade netting that will jut out from underneath the bridge deck.
The netting will be painted gray to better blend in with the water, and will be nearly invisible to the naked eye when viewing the bridge from a distance. The only clear view of the netting will be when standing on the sidewalk, looking straight down toward the water.
When someone jumps, they will fall onto the net. Bridge crisis workers will be notified in order to pull the individual off of the net. Most people who jump and land on a suicide net don’t actually crawl to the edge to continue their jump. Instead, most people just wait to be rescued from the netting, which has just saved their life. Most people are thankful to be given a second chance at being alive.
According to research, suicide barriers like netting or raised fencing are very effective in reducing the number of people using a bridge as a suicide method. At some bridges, after such barriers were erected, the number of suicide attempts have been reduced to zero.
Sadly, the cost of the project has ballooned from an initial projection of $66 million to more than $204 million since it was first conceived and budgeted. Just six years ago, the project’s estimated cost was $76 million.1
What has accounted for the ballooning cost estimates? According to a spokesperson from the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District:
Due to the complexity and difficulty of the work to be performed, construction bids on the project came in above what the District originally estimated and the budget was amended to meet the new estimates for what it would take to complete the work. It also took several years to secure funding for the project — which includes federal, state, and regional sources — including a change to federal transportation funding policy to make the project eligible for federal funds.
Countless families and mental health advocates around the country will be thankful when the bridge’s suicide barrier is finally completed in three more years. We expect the suicide rate at the bridge will drop to less than a dozen per year once the barrier is installed, saving dozens of lives annually.
No matter what the cost, the lives saved by the barrier will be worth the cost and the wait.
- When we first started covering the suicide barrier for the Golden Gate Bridge in 2006, the estimated cost of the barrier was between $15 and $20 million. [↩]