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Thursday, March 8, 2012

One Suicide Every Nine Days on Golden Gate Bridge

Posted By on Thu, Mar 8, 2012 at 12:00 PM

click to enlarge Too often - THE BRIDGE

Suicides often don't make the news for a variety of reasons: respect for the departed and family, and to deter future suicides.

Neither is foolproof, especially in San Francisco, home of the world's most prominent suicide magnet.

Fatal leaps from the Golden Gate Bridge spiked last year, per a report in The Examiner: 40 people died after jumping from the span, up from 25 in 2009.

That's about one death per nine days, a sobering statistic and one that's renewing calls for a (pricey) suicide barrier, funding for which is currently nonexistent.

The notion of a suicide fence or net on the Bridge has fostered heated debate, with historic preservationists at loggerheads with suicide prevention advocates (were aesthetics worth lives, one side asks. The other says yes).

A compromise was reached when the bridge's overlords, the Golden Gate Bridge and Transportation District, approved a $50 million net underneath the bridge that would not impede views, work crews, or the bridge's ability to withstand wind.

The bridge has been a suicide magnet since its first opening. Mental health professionals have been asking for a barrier for 75 years, the Examiner reported, and "at least" 1,500 people have died in fatal leaps since 1937.

And at least one school-age child has fallen victim to peer pressure: a year ago, a 17-year old high school student jumped from the bridge last year and survived, escorted to shore by a 55-year old surfer who excoriated him for being so frivolous with his life.

The net, however, isn't arriving anytime soon: Bridge funds will not pay for the suicide barrier, and the project is $45 million short, according to reports.

As it stands, the bridge's current suicide deterrent techniques -- signs, authority figures, and dissuading bystanders -- prevented about 100 more "possible suicides" in 2011, according to the bridge district.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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