One of the most difficult problems about the world’s most famous and beautiful bridge is suicide. This problem is also one of the most controversial aspects about the Bridge. The very facts that the Bridge is world famous, presents a stunningly beautiful view, and spans a powerful body of water make the Bridge attractive to tourists and potential suicides alike.
The emotional backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge is a metaphor for human life. Like the Bridge, we all have the beauty and strength to make life’s journey about more than just a mundane trip. Also, like the Bridge, we have places of sorrow. Both sides are compelling and have been at the heart of much discussion.
The Golden Gate purists have disagreed with anti-suicide advocates for many years. On the one hand, there is the understandable desire to preserve and maintain the original design and style of the Bridge. On the other hand, there is the humanitarian desire to prevent people from jumping to their deaths.
As someone who has enjoyed many strolls across the Bridge, I fully understand and appreciate both points of view. If a person intends to do away with oneself, the Golden Gate is the place to do it. Indeed, people from across the globe have chosen to make the Bridge their final destination. As an average sightseer, I can appreciate the beauty of the Bridge. As someone who feels empathy, I can understand how family and friends of anyone who has jumped can view the Bridge as ugly.
The complexity of the Bridge safety issue is mirrored and magnified in the complexity and conflict that goes on in the mind of a person who contemplates suicide, anywhere in the world. I don’t want even one more person to end life in the waters below the Bridge. Similarly, I don’t want anybody else to kill themselves anyplace else, either.
Regarding the Golden Gate Bridge, this June, the Bridge District’s board of directors unanimously voted in favor of funding a steel suicide net system to prevent people from leaping to their deaths. Once the system is in place, the span will no longer be the Bridge of Death.
The bigger problem is how to prevent suicides in all the other locations of the world. Someone who has wanted to end it all, but can’t jump from the Golden Gate Bridge will only find somewhere else to accomplish the act. Physical barriers are only a stopgap measure and bandaid approach to the much more serious, deep problem that goes to the heart of a suffering human being. We need to reach people before they decide to jump off a bridge, overdose on drugs, or engage in any sort of violence against themselves and others.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. It is a time when we can focus on all aspects of suicide, from the outward acts to the inward motivations of the victims. The drive to kill oneself often arises out of despair and dark feelings.
Suicide is the 13th overall cause of death, globally. Meanwhile, it ranks first for youth and people under age 35. There are close to 20,000,000 non fatal attempts across the globe each year. The rate of successful suicides is much higher for males than females.
There are no “special” categories of people who attempt suicide. They include military personel returning from our wars in the Middle East. There are middle class breadwinners who lose their jobs. Sometimes famous celebrities succomb to suicide. There are youth who are relentlessly picked on by their peers, especially problematic is the problem of harrassment of LGBT people. Overall, the greatest risk factors involve interpersonal relationship conflicts, unemployment, or bullying.
When somebody dies at her/his own hand, other people are deeply affected. Some experts have estimated that for each victim of suicide, up to ten other people are intimately affected by the loss. Family and friends experience various emotional reactions, ranging from grief, shock, depression, and anger.
There are many sources for suicide prevention and intervention in our communities and on the Web. Most developed nations have some sort of national suicide prevention hotline center that offers confidential help and counseling for people suffering a crisis.
You can quickly locate a list of helping organizations and agencies by doing a web search. You will likely find some sort of support for specialized needs.
One of the more recent additions is The Trevor Project. They provide information about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth. The Trevor Project is especially effective in the understanding of the underlying causes of LGBT suicides and how to prevent the deaths and injuries.
Other organizations to consider include StopBullying.gov , SAMSHSA Mental Health Services Locator, National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, and The Suicide Prevention Resource Center. The locations are easily found by an Internet search.
Help and understanding from all of us serve as the bridges from despair, to hope and survival.