Jason Lindquist (jlindquist) wrote,
Jason Lindquist

The bridge as a suicide magnet

The San Francisco Chronicle is running a series of articles this week about the Golden Gate Bridge, its history of suicides, and the 60+ year-old debate over erecting a barrier to prevent people from jumping off it.

The bridge was originally designed with five-and-a-half-foot railings, which are just tall enough to be a bitch to climb. Somehow, those got cut down to 4 feet before construction began. I have to say, I would be really disappointed to see the railings raised. I've walked out on the bridge before, reaching about halfway before darkness demanded a return to San Francisco. The view is positively magnificent. There are few places in the world so beautiful, and your view is not maligned by the presence of steel or glass. It's your eyes and the rest of creation. I would hate to lose that.

But I think I can appreciate, to some measure, the agony the families go through of the people who jump. The research shows that only 6% of people who are talked down from jumping actually carry through. So while it still holds true that someone who wants it badly enough will still succeed, 94% get past whatever it is that depresses them so much. There's a real benefit to a barrier. Part of me is inclined to say leave it be, to let people live (or not) with the consequences of their choices, and let survivors learn to accept that. But changing a couple of words in a statement about that can really turn the sentiment around. From the end of the article:
"I had someone come up to me as I was walking to some hearings and he
said, 'They should put up a diving board so those people can jump off it.' I said, 'Now say to me, "They should put up a diving board so my son could jump off of it."'"
(Emphasis mine.)

As always, it's really easy to dismiss something when it involves people you don't know. Different story when it's people you do know, or care about.

So here's hoping they find a barrier that can stop people from falling, without wrecking the majesty of the view from that bridge.

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