George Washington Bridge Suicide Jumper Highlights Lack of Barriers

More than 230 people have taken their lives at the Aurora Bridge in Seattle, making it the second deadliest "suicide bridge" in the United States, behind the Golden Gate Bridge, according to Seattle Friends. Since 1995, 50 people have died, and more than half of the victims landed on the pavement and busy intersections below.

But since 2011, safety barriers have been in place, thanks to a suicide-prevention organization. Now, state transportation officials, who spent $4.8 million on the project, say guardedly that it is working.

American universities struggling with high suicide rates are also finding barriers are effective.

New York University in Lower Manhattan just completed the renovation of a 150-foot-tall space after a several students jumped to their deaths inside a library.

In 2003, after two suicides less than a month apart, the university installed 8-foot, plastic-glass walls in its library's atrium. But another student scaled the wall in 2009 and killed himself. Now, a new system of lace-like aluminum panels has been installed around the balconies and staircases.

Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., has also addressed its suicide problem by installing mesh nets on five bridges that cross gorges around campus. The school has had 27 such deaths between 1990 and 2010, 15 of them students.

Some experts argue that those intent on suicide will find a way, regardless of attempts to dissuade jumpers, but one study, reported in the New York Times story, "The Urge to End It All," suggests otherwise.

Two bridges in Washington, D.C., span the 125-foot deep Rock Creek gorge, the Ellington, famous as the "suicide bridge" with about four deaths a year, and the Taft, with fewer than two a year.

But after three people died in a 10-day period in 1985, the city erected barriers at the Ellington Bridge. Critics feared jumpers would just go to the Taft instead. But five years later, a study showed no suicides at the Ellington Bridge and no change at Taft. As a result, the overall suicide deaths went down in the nation's capital by 50 percent.

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