Golden Gate Bridge Barrier Update

The San Francisco Chronicle’s site has an update on the GGB barrier debate. Unfortunately, most people don’t want any kind of barrier at all. However, of the design options, the net is proving to be the most popular. Likely because it doesn’t affect the aesthetics of the bridge by much and it is still considered a suicide prevention mechanism.

Golden Gate Bridge net barrierI’d initially cited concerns about how jumpers would be pulled out of the net. Rachael Gordon, the Chronicle’s staff writer, got chief engineer Denis Mulligan to provide an answer:

For starters, he said, once someone jumps over the Art Deco span’s 4-foot railing, it could take rescuers several hours to get to the scene to retrieve the person from the net, which essentially would envelop the person and make it difficult but still possible to clamber out.

“It wouldn’t be like a trampoline, that once you jump onto, it would be easy to jump off,” Mulligan said. But, he added, “If you’re very agile, very strong and focused, you may be able to climb out.”

I hope it’s as hard to climb out of as Mulligan cites. Just the wait to be rescued alone might get jumpers to think twice about trying again. But here’s the process in more detail:

During a rescue operation from the net, authorities would shut down a lane of traffic. A specialized vehicle, called a “snooper” truck, would be brought in. Outfitted with a mechanical arm similar to a cherry picker used by utility crews, two specially trained rescue workers would be lowered down to the net in a bucket to pull the person out.

Authorities said they would have to convince pranksters and daredevils that jumping into the net would not be a pleasant experience.

“It would hurt,” Mulligan said of the 20-foot drop into a net made out of marine-grade stainless steel coated in plastic.

This article also uses another bridge — a former suicide hotspot — as an example to show that suicides can be prevented.

In Switzerland, researchers found that just the presence of the net stopped people from even trying to jump off the Munster Terrace, a medieval cathedral located in the old section of Bern, from which two or three people had been leaping to their deaths every year. They also found that the net did not shift suicides to other locations.

And that the implementation of barriers in other places have also proven successful:

Other well-known jump spots, among them the Eiffel Tower in Paris and the Empire State Building in New York City, were long ago outfitted with suicide barriers. Like the net attached to the Gothic cathedral in Bern, studies have shown them effective in thwarting impulsive suicide attempts.

I’m not so idealistic to think barriers will keep suicidal people from committing suicide. Rather, I think they’re worth erecting for “thwarting impulsive suicide attempts.” Who knows how many people are still alive as a result?


The general public is welcome to vote for a barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge and provide additional comments (ie, you don’t need to be from California or San Francisco). Visit the Golden Gate Bridge Suicide Deterrent Barrier site to make your opinion known on this issue.

Pick a number: 20 or 9,000,000

20 people annually or 9,000,000 people annually.

Golden Gate BridgeThose are the numbers that the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB) Board of Directors will need to choose between in October.

GGB officials are considering a proposal to erect suicide barriers on the bridge. Public forums were held on Tuesday and Wednesday to gauge public reaction to the five options designed to deter suicides. The cost of erecting one of the barriers is estimated between $40–50 million.

Bridge officials have been culling comments about the barriers at the forums and through the site Golden Gate Bridge Suicide Deterrent Barrier. As of Wednesday, July 23, the San Francisco Chronicle reports:

[O]f the more than 900 tallied so far, an overwhelming 75 percent of the respondents said they prefer that no barrier be built at all. But a small, passionate group of proponents – many of them family
members of people who jumped to their deaths from the bridge – insist a barrier is needed. Any barrier.

“Overwhelming 75 percent” prefer no barrier? That’s not good.

Opponents of the barriers say it will ruin the aesthetic view of the bridge for the yearly estimated 9 million visitors.

I stumbled upon a blog, Bookworm Room, yesterday that brought the issue to my attention. This blogger likely represents the sentiment of the “overwhelming 75 percent.”

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The Act and Follow-through of Suicide: Part IV

Compilation of Statistics Regarding Suicide

Scott Anderson in his NYT article weaves the grim statistics of suicide in and out of his story. Here’s the morbid list:

General

  • mental illnessThe nation’s suicide rate (11 victims per 100,000 inhabitants) is almost precisely what it was in 1965.
  • In 2005, approximately 32,000 Americans committed suicide, or nearly twice the number of those killed by homicide.
  • The National Institute of Mental Health says that 90 percent of all suicide “completers” display some form of diagnosable mental disorder.

Demographics

  • Both elderly men living in Western states and white male adolescents from divorced families are at elevated risk.

Premeditation vs. Passion

  • [T]he person who best fits the classic definition of “being suicidal” might actually be safer than one acting in the heat of the moment — at least 40 times safer in the case of someone opting for an overdose of pills over shooting himself.
  • In a 2001 University of Houston study of 153 survivors of nearly lethal attempts between the ages of 13 and 34, only 13 percent reported having contemplated their act for eight hours or longer. To the contrary, 70 percent set the interval between deciding to kill themselves and acting at less than an hour, including an astonishing 24 percent who pegged the interval at less than five minutes.
  • “Sticking one’s head in the oven” became so common in Britain that by the late 1950s it accounted for some 2,500 suicides a year, almost half the nation’s total. By the early 1970s, the amount of carbon monoxide
    running through domestic gas lines had been reduced to nearly zero. During those same years, Britain’s national suicide rate dropped by nearly a third, and it has remained close to that reduced level ever since.

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