Golden Gate Bridge, Long a Suicide Magnet, May Get Safety Nets

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Some studies show that iconic bridges and other physical structures draw those with suicidal impulses, but if barriers are in place, many deaths can be prevented.

The second deadliest suicide bridge is the Aurora Bridge in Seattle, where, in 2013, 230 took their lives, according to the Seattle Friends, which organized to prevent the deaths. More than half of the victims landed not in the water, but on the pavement and busy intersection below.

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.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline promotes the use of bridge barriers as the "most effective" means of bridge suicide prevention. It also recognizes that signage or other public education media near bridges promoting awareness of hotlines can supplement such barriers.

The group's executive director, John Draper, said of the Golden Gate project, “I think it’s a long overdue achievement for suicide prevention and public safety.”

He said many bridge officials had turned to hotlines only because their “cheap cost.”

“One of the reasons that has kept this from going up was the cost -- but another reason was the aesthetics,” he said. “But think of the cost to human life. Can you imagine? The Golden Gate Bridge can now become a national and international monument for not only beauty, but compassion. When people look at the bridge, they are reminded suicide is preventable -- something we can do something about.”

When used alone at bridges, hotlines are “ineffective,” said Draper.

“There is no one tool for every situation,” he said. “But what is right for bridges and structures where people historically leapt to their death or [had] fallen by accident, is barriers. The evidence is overwhelming.”

For help or more information contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. at 1-800-273-8255.

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