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Creative addition to bridge prevents suicides
June 24, 2013 10:46 AM   Subscribe

South Korea has the one of the highest suicide rates in the world. An addition to the one of the more popular suicide bridges in Seoul has prevented many (SLYT).
posted by JiffyQ (86 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
And then they undo all their awesome work by putting that music in their video....
posted by resurrexit at 10:53 AM on June 24, 2013 [19 favorites]


Related: Bridge Over Troubled Water (scroll down to Act 1), in which a single individual takes up a vigilant watch to stop people from jumping from the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge, the most common suicide site in the world.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:55 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


On the Korean bridge, I do wonder if the lights and sayings are more effective than, say, a railing that's really hard to climb over.
posted by mcstayinskool at 10:56 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


On the Korean bridge, I do wonder if the lights and sayings are more effective than, say, a railing that's really hard to climb over.

I do think the lights would be more effective, as they seem more likely to help someone to reconsider suicide, rather than just act as an impediment that forces them to go elsewhere.
posted by orme at 10:59 AM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Suicide Proofing bridges: Proof that on a global level human beings simply haven't figured out depression yet.

Which is sad, because depression is waaaay simpler than like nuclear fusion, global geo-political economics, or even high school statistics for that matter.
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:00 AM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Which is sad, because depression is waaaay simpler than like nuclear fusion, global geo-political economics, or even high school statistics for that matter

Figuring out a reason for everyone on earth to continue to live seems non-trivial to me.
posted by empath at 11:02 AM on June 24, 2013 [35 favorites]


I do think the lights would be more effective, as they seem more likely to help someone to reconsider suicide, rather than just act as an impediment that forces them to go elsewhere.

Why would a suicidal person even go to a bridge that was advertised to be full of bright lights and patronizing messages? Not to mention that it's now a tourist attraction -- how many suicidal people really want an audience?

It seems to me that the reason why the suicide rate dropped so much on the bridge is that the suicidal people just found other bridges (or other methods).
posted by sparklemotion at 11:04 AM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Suicide Proofing bridges: Proof that on a global level human beings simply haven't figured out depression yet.

I think the fact that we've moved from higher railings to a system that is designed to try to connect to the suicidal person and bring them to help and truer safety is a sign that we're getting there.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:04 AM on June 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Which is sad, because depression is waaaay simpler than like nuclear fusion, global geo-political economics, or even high school statistics for that matter.

it is?
posted by whyareyouatriangle at 11:06 AM on June 24, 2013 [16 favorites]


I can't remember where I heard this recently, but it was something to the effect that in interviews with people who've survived suicide attempts using means like jumping -- where you take an irrevocable step but still have some moments to think beyond that point -- that the overwhelmingly common feeling in that moment is to change your mind rather vehemently and wish above all else that you hadn't done it.

To find a succinct way to express that to a potential jumper might strike a chord where other things might not.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:07 AM on June 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


depression is waaaay simpler than like nuclear fusion, global geo-political economics, or even high school statistics for that matter

I couldn't disagree with this more. I think the combined neurology, physiology, genetics and psychology that contribute to depression are orders of magnitude more complex and difficult than anything we currently presume to understand in any usefully comprehensive kind of way. The fact that we know lots about physics and comparably little about the way the brain works isn't for a lack of trying on the latter. It's because it's a much more difficult field of inquiry.
posted by slkinsey at 11:12 AM on June 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


My understanding is that this is particularly a problem with South Korean students and that the stressful educational culture is partly to blame (suicide is "now the leading cause of death among those aged 15-24").
posted by seemoreglass at 11:15 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which is sad, because depression is waaaay simpler than like nuclear fusion, global geo-political economics, or even high school statistics for that matter.

"High school statistics?" We're not talking "the blues" or a bad day or week, you understand. Your comment feels like a trivialization of a difficult problem. If you think serious depression or suicidal ideation are simple to solve, my guess is that neither you nor a loved one has ever suffered from either one.
posted by aught at 11:16 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why don't you talk to us? We're always here for you.

Who's intended to be the "we," here?
posted by eugenen at 11:17 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which is sad, because depression is waaaay simpler than like nuclear fusion, global geo-political economics, or even high school statistics for that matter.

Then what are you doing? There's money to be made here.
posted by xmutex at 11:17 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Well...
posted by jonmc at 11:18 AM on June 24, 2013


I wonder if the fact that the bridge is now a more popular destination for visitors has much of a correlation with the lowered suicide rate? Jumping is something that people don't tend to do around a big crowd.
posted by xingcat at 11:19 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


xingcat - I wondered that as well, and would like to see how much the stats for that one bridge are reflected across the city or even neighborhood as a whole, but my hypothesis would be that even that one change is enough to turn a significant number of people off the momentary idea of killing themselves, anyway.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:21 AM on June 24, 2013


I do think the lights would be more effective, as they seem more likely to help someone to reconsider suicide, rather than just act as an impediment that forces them to go elsewhere.

Possibly--time will tell, I guess. There is very good evidence that cutting off people's access to high-profile or readily available "suicide spots" (and suicide methods) has a permanent effect on local suicide rates. In other words, the widely held folk belief that suicidal people are typically highly determined to end their lives and if deprived of one way or doing it will simply seek some other is clearly false. It's a very pernicious belief, too, because it constantly saps people's will to do something about suicide magnets like the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.
posted by yoink at 11:22 AM on June 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


It seems to me that the reason why the suicide rate dropped so much on the bridge is that the suicidal people just found other bridges (or other methods).

Science has found that any method of deterring a particular form of suicide tends to lead to an overall drop in suicides -- putting up any obstacle leads to people reconsidering the idea entirely.
posted by Etrigan at 11:22 AM on June 24, 2013 [15 favorites]


xmutex: Then what are you doing? There's money to be made here.

Not anymore, thanks to this breakthrough treatment. No malarkey.
posted by dr_dank at 11:25 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


re: previous comment about what jumpers think right after they jump:

The Bridge, a 2006 documentary about suicides at the Golden Gate bridge, may have been where you heard this. My recollection was that every single interview with survivors (there aren't many) had quotes like this one: "...suicide survivor Ken Baldwin explains “I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.” (Wikipedia)
posted by kozad at 11:33 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


That was unexpected.

I clicked the link assuming it would be some kind of novel barrier that prevented people from jumping.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:41 AM on June 24, 2013


Stop building really high things for people to jump off!
posted by Brocktoon at 11:41 AM on June 24, 2013


a system that is designed to try to connect to the suicidal person and bring them to help and truer safety is a sign that we're getting there.

Those fortune-cookie messages? Not really. This is just a feel-good PR stunt.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:41 AM on June 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


But it's not the Bridge of Life. Suicidal ideation is the actual experience of suffering, and it's important to remember that suicide is perceived by the extremely depressed as a means of escape, not as an end (as typically viewed by non-suicidal people). So, it is more accurately, and less naively, the Bridge of Undeath or, more charitably, the Bridge of Hope.
posted by polymodus at 11:43 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's a good effort. Reaching out to people who feel burdened and alone is never a bad thing.
posted by arcticseal at 11:45 AM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


In other words, the widely held folk belief that suicidal people are typically highly determined to end their lives and if deprived of one way or doing it will simply seek some other is clearly false. It's a very pernicious belief, too, because it constantly saps people's will to do something about suicide magnets like the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.

This. There was a great article in The New Yorker about the Golden Gate Bridge that made this point well. From the article:

A familiar argument against a barrier is that thwarted jumpers will simply go elsewhere. In 1953, a bridge supervisor named Mervin Lewis rejected an early proposal for a barrier by saying it was preferable that suicides jump into the Bay than dive off a building “and maybe kill somebody else.” (It’s a public-safety issue.) Although this belief makes intuitive sense, it is demonstrably untrue. Dr. Seiden’s study, “Where Are They Now?,” published in 1978, followed up on five hundred and fifteen people who were prevented from attempting suicide at the bridge between 1937 and 1971. After, on average, more than twenty-six years, ninety-four per cent of the would-be suicides were either still alive or had died of natural causes. “The findings confirm previous observations that suicidal behavior is crisis-oriented and acute in nature,” Seiden concluded; if you can get a suicidal person through his crisis—Seiden put the high-risk period at ninety days—chances are extremely good that he won’t kill himself later.

So whether the cutesy messages actually make people reconsider or whether the remaking of the bridge into a tourist attraction is the reason for the decrease, it is still a decrease and that's a good thing.
posted by AgentRocket at 11:50 AM on June 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


my guess is that neither you nor a loved one has ever suffered from either one.

Yeah, I guess if you count all of those years I spent working in Behavioral Health, or you know the years of growing up with a manicly depressed parent, or you know the lifetime of self-doubt that comes with being a depressed person, then yeah... no experience with depression whatsoever.

Anybody who thinks I was trivializing depression clearly missed the point. As a civilization we can figure out these extremely complex and difficult things. But somehow we can't figure out this.
posted by Blue_Villain at 11:53 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


i like this so much more than just a simple physical barrier. there are maybe better ways to implement it, but this idea is simple and easily carried out.

as someone who has some experience with obsessive suicide ideation, if i walked across that bridge with any regularity, and there were stories about people regularly jumping off of it, i'd have a hard time - not because i was actively depressed (or more actively depressed, i guess), or because i wanted an end really, but more, because i wouldn't be able to shake the idea and one night that might just turn into climbing the railing.

the motion sensitive lights are the part that would help the most for me, i think - giving me something else to focus my brain on, like counting steps or adding change, every light would be a little *boop* in my brain and i think they'd shake my obsessive thoughts just enough to get to the other end of the bridge and start considering what sort of dinner i would make when i got home.
posted by nadawi at 11:58 AM on June 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


Anybody who thinks I was trivializing depression clearly missed the point. As a civilization we can figure out these extremely complex and difficult things. But somehow we can't figure out this.

That's pretty much the dictionary definition of "trivialize," you know.
posted by Etrigan at 12:05 PM on June 24, 2013


Designers really think they are important these days.
posted by Hennimore at 12:06 PM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


As a civilization we can figure out these extremely complex and difficult things. But somehow we can't figure out this.

...because none of those things are as complex as a human brain, and none of those challenges remotely approach the challenge of the human brain understanding itself.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:11 PM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Those fortune-cookie messages? Not really. This is just a feel-good PR stunt

Yeah. The most expensive feel-good PR stunt ever. Come on.
posted by xmutex at 12:11 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


How about messages like "Warning: finding a bloated, fish-gnawed human corpse on the riverbank is horrifying and traumatic, especially to children"?
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:12 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


this bridge is exactly what a society which has pushed to the margins everything, other than the production and consumption of hi-tech consumer items, would think to build.
posted by ennui.bz at 12:14 PM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is there an option to inform the bridge that: "No, I'm not in any way suicidal, I just want to enjoy the impersonality of crossing the river at night"?

I say this not to trivialize the experience of being depressed, but because when I'm feeling down the last thing I want to hear is how things are OK, how people care about me, etc. Staring into the void, however, is wonderful.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:15 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


this bridge is exactly what a society which has pushed to the margins everything, other than the production and consumption of hi-tech consumer items, would think to build.

But that's brilliant! How about:

"Wait! Look at all these fine products you haven't bought yet!"
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:16 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


We just had a discussion about why suicide happens.

The place in the intersection of the three circles mentioned (Feeling like a burden, ability to die/not being afraid to die, and feeling isolated/alone) does not have to be occupied for long before an attempt is made. With two of these conditions, one might want to die, but not attempt. But with three...the odds are very bad for survival. Anything that happens to get a person out of just one of the circles can keep a person alive. Make dying scary, help a person feel like they have something to contribute, make dying scary or more difficult.

So saying that people "don't really mean it" is reductionist.

And saying "we don't understand this" is inaccurate. You don't understand it, but this is not a universal ignorance.
posted by bilabial at 12:16 PM on June 24, 2013


Bizarre reactions here. Preventing suicide and reminding people of how we are connected is not a zero-sum game. It doesn't have to be 100% perfect. The fact that suicides have decreased by 77%, even if it is because it has gotten too crowded (and we don't know that for certain), is great news. I'm sure the people of Seoul appreciate this very much.

I'm also someone who has suffered from anxiety and depression--and sometimes all that saves me for the next day is a stranger being kind or giving me a smile. In my darkest days, I've even burst into tears when I see one of those inspirational quotes on Facebook. The suicidal have to be reminded over and over again that our lives have value and meaning, that we are worth it, that our pain will end. So I'm all for anything that gets us out of the darkness of suicidal ideation.
posted by so much modern time at 12:20 PM on June 24, 2013 [14 favorites]


The solution to a high suicide rate? Don't examine the underlying factors that make people so utterly miserable that they want to kill themselves, but instead make it harder to commit suicide. Right.
posted by JHarris at 12:21 PM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


With two of these conditions, one might want to die, but not attempt.

Which should show us -- people who attempt suicide are the tip of an iceberg. Depression is a vast problem, and it's only getting bigger.
posted by JHarris at 12:22 PM on June 24, 2013


Where is the 77% reduction statistic coming from? Can someone lazier than me find this somewhere? 77% sounds like a total lie. Maybe it's because the bridge was completed right before winter, a time when few people typically jump. I mean, I doubt it's this simple, but 77% suicide reduction??? I'd think I'd have seen this on the top of my Huffington Post app screen.
posted by Hennimore at 12:23 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Science has found that any method of deterring a particular form of suicide tends to lead to an overall drop in suicides -- putting up any obstacle leads to people reconsidering the idea entirely.

Or just makes it hard enough that they give up and stay miserable. (Also, "science has said?" I imagine a cartoon caricature of Albert Einstein who talks like Dexter about his laBORatory.)
posted by JHarris at 12:29 PM on June 24, 2013


JHarris: "The solution to a high suicide rate? Don't examine the underlying factors that make people so utterly miserable that they want to kill themselves, but instead make it harder to commit suicide. Right."

If you've been listening, you'll note that suicide attempts, while symptoms of depression, are often "crisis-oriented and acute in nature" and in many cases a suicide attempt is in fact the turning point on a (long, hard) road to recovery. So making it "harder to commit suicide" (which is a weird way to describe this bridge, IMO -- it's not like they've put up high railings or barbed wire) in fact is a good way of helping alleviate misery.
posted by dendrochronologizer at 12:31 PM on June 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


The solution to a high suicide rate? Don't examine the underlying factors that make people so utterly miserable that they want to kill themselves, but instead make it harder to commit suicide. Right.

Sweet lord, can't it be both?
posted by Navelgazer at 12:32 PM on June 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


Can I ask a totally tangential and 100% sincere question?

The tone, pacing, inflections and timbre of the English-language voiceover at the beginning of the video is almost identical to other translated voiceovers I recognize from stuff I watch on Netflix and Hulu. The one that comes to mind is the narration from A Taste of Asia, which I think was also produced by a Korean production company. Is there, like, one guy who does the most of the English voiceovers for Korean television, or do the voiceover artists who do this work strive towards a particular kind of lilting non-accent, and therefore sound really similar?

(I really like the bridge, by the way.)
posted by mudpuppie at 12:43 PM on June 24, 2013


Up at Cornell they have installed suicide nets ala Foxconn; I guess the working conditions are about the same. Anyway, it definitely spoils the view but perhaps it helps. I thought it somewhat strange that this Korean bridge did not have them. The talking bridge feature is brilliant, but perhaps somewhat creepy if you are just wanting to walk to the other side rather than take a plunge.

Also, see Guardian of the Golden Gate
posted by caddis at 12:44 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the very act of illuminating one's last fleeting seconds on earth is probably what repels people. Personally being tracked by that installation would feel a bit too much like being caught in a spotlight.

And yeah, it's cute, but for the same buck, what kind of suicide prevention bang could we have had? Oh yeah, corporate sponsorship: "For when a big fence is not enough".
posted by fingerbang at 12:49 PM on June 24, 2013


Designers really think they are important these days.

Yes, they deserve commendation for their vision of the future where people don't want to kill themselves because bridges talk. Currently I'm working on a boot-dryer shaped like a cactus which helps you work your life away to pay off student loans you can't remember wanting to take, and a gps enabled android app which provides a place for you in a culture which will torture you if you don't soak in its false consciousness. Oh, and a fucking typeface which sticks it to authoritarian daddy figures.
posted by Teakettle at 12:51 PM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Blue_Villain: "Suicide Proofing bridges: Proof that on a global level human beings simply haven't figured out depression yet.

Which is sad, because depression is waaaay simpler than like nuclear fusion, global geo-political economics, or even high school statistics for that matter.
"

Honestly, my personal experience with depression agrees with this. It only seems difficult because most of the interventions we're trying are at the individual and not the societal level. I can only speak for myself, but connections to other people, meaningful work, sunlight, autonomy, exercise, and other very simple, very human things make a huge difference in my well being. Depression is a huge problem but I don't think it's rocket science. It just doesn't respond well to technological solutions.

But that's not what this bridge is about. Light-up platitudes on a railing apparently save lives - that's a good thing, and I don't mean to dismiss it - but I feel like we're just patting ourselves on the back and saying "ok, job done" because we've managed to decrease the most visible manifestation of more widespread suffering.

And this is a sort of top-down view of the problem. X many people jumped, Y many people saved... it's a kind of care in the abstract, statistical sense. Who are they? What were their names? Their families, their loved ones? What did they care about and what caused the pain that gnawed at their spirit to the point of seeking death? Maybe it's just me, but if I were walking along the bridge at one of my low points, I don't think I'd see the messages as anything other than a technocratic and impersonal illusion of caring.
posted by Wemmick at 12:52 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


caddis: "Also, see Guardian of the Golden Gate"

This is an amazing man.
posted by Wemmick at 12:53 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


a trivialization of a difficult problem

Like people advising me to "get out of my comfort zone", when I didn't have one.
posted by thelonius at 12:54 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


The suicidal have to be reminded over and over again that our lives have value and meaning, that we are worth it, that our pain will end.

Some people don't hate themselves, viewing suicide as a means by which the pain would end. This may be because interacting with other people is the thing that makes them feel that they are valueless. I say this not to disagree that those things work for you, but to remind people that the depressed are not all alike in the hopes that someday it will be generally recognized. A bridge like the one in the OP would make some people feel much worse, not better.

That is why depression is a much harder problem to solve than high school statistics. I wish it were not so- I'm not bad at statistics.
posted by winna at 12:55 PM on June 24, 2013


The tone, pacing, inflections and timbre of the English-language voiceover at the beginning of the video is almost identical to other translated voiceovers I recognize from stuff I watch on Netflix and Hulu.

I assumed that voice-over was generated by a text-to-speech generator rather than a real person.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:59 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think this is great. If one message out of the hundreds happens to be able for a particular individual to instill doubt that suicide is the right choice, that message is a lifesaver. It might be even better if every hundred feet there were a button you could press that would instantly connect you to a suicide hotline center.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:59 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Y'know, if they didn't want people using the Golden Gate Bridge as a way to step into the next life, maybe they shouldn't have called it that.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:05 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wow... so many people clearly not understanding what I'm saying... and then directing some sort of vitriol to me?

Just because someone doesn't see things the same way you do, doesn't mean you need to force your version of the truth down their throat. You'd be surprised as to how far simply being nice to people goes. But too many people (in here as well) would rather be chemically/technologically right, when absolutely nothing is on the line, than be agreeable.

The fact that this type of non-conversation happens in a thread about suicide and depression once again illustrates that humanity can't figure the simplest things out, while we relentlessly strive to solve the complex ones.

You tell me which is more complex: being nice and taking time out of your day to understand someone else who clearly has a different view point than you, or fucking nuclear fusion. And I'm the one who doesn't get it. FFS people.
posted by Blue_Villain at 1:10 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Golden Gate, the strait connecting San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean in the United States, named after the Golden Gate (Latin: Porta Aurea, Greek: Χρυσή Πύλη, Chrysē Pylē) of Constantinople (now Istanbul), and also after the Golden Horn, an estuary on the Bosphorus in Istanbul
It kind of blew my mind when I realized that there was a Golden Gate before there was a Golden Gate Bridge. Kind of like when I realized that the Empire State Building was named after The Empire State, New York's nickname.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:11 PM on June 24, 2013


Blue_Villain,

People are reacting strongly because you implied, on more than one occasion, that depression is a simple problem, when it is anything but.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:18 PM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


hey Blue_Villain - i have been following you since your first comment and saw what you were trying to say, but i will admit that i had to read it a few times to get there. other people seem to have read it differently than you intended and that sucks, but your reaction to it ratcheted it all up. at this point your exacerbation with other mefites is coming across far louder than your point and it's getting harder to discern what you're getting at. some of the things you're saying are coming across as very provocative, but i don't think you necessarily mean them that way - it might be why you're getting some push back though.
posted by nadawi at 1:20 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Perhaps I'm too cynical, but the "brought to you by Samsung Life Insurance" at the end kind of ruined the moment for me. At least I can say that it's nice that the corporate interests align with the individual ones in this particular case.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:34 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Suicide is certainy no laughing matter, but I wonder if I'm the only one who finds something darkly humorous in the self-congratulatory tone of this video.

Also, it has me thinking about what other uses there could be for this technology. "I was feeling pretty down in the dumps, but then I decided to make some toast..."
posted by Mr. Fig at 1:42 PM on June 24, 2013


As a few people noted, reducing suicides in one location does not always just push them to a different location; sometimes, reducing suicide through one means can reduce suicides overall. Some of the evidence is a bit shaky, but there are a few examples on the Harvard School of Public Health's "Means Matters" website. I realize that the reduction claimed for the bridge in this post wasn't achieved through means reduction/restriction per se, but there are good reasons to suspect that a reduction in the suicide rate purportedly associated with this bridge modification will not be wholly undone by increases elsewhere.

JHarris: The solution to a high suicide rate? Don't examine the underlying factors that make people so utterly miserable that they want to kill themselves, but instead make it harder to commit suicide. Right.
JHarris: Which should show us -- people who attempt suicide are the tip of an iceberg. Depression is a vast problem, and it's only getting bigger.

I have never understood this type of argument: "Somebody may have found a partial solution to problem X, but they didn't solve problem Y, which interests me more, so their work is useless/pointless/futile." Maybe these folks weren't even trying to make in-roads on the "vast problem" of depression. Maybe the suicide rate was precisely what they were trying to address. And maybe they agreed with you that depression is a vast problem and thought it just too much to tackle in hopes of appreciably reducing suicides. The claim in the post is that the bridge modification has reduced suicides at that bridge by some 77%. Why is that result (assuming it's accurate) not laudable, even if it did nothing at all to address any underlying depression? At least some of those people are presumably still alive so that someone or something else may eventually help them with their depression.
posted by dilettanti at 1:55 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Suicide Proofing bridges: Proof that on a global level human beings simply haven't figured out depression yet.

Which is sad, because depression is waaaay simpler than like nuclear fusion, global geo-political economics, or even high school statistics for that matter.
[...] It only seems difficult because most of the interventions we're trying are at the individual and not the societal level. I can only speak for myself, but connections to other people, meaningful work, sunlight, autonomy, exercise, and other very simple, very human things make a huge difference in my well being.

This. I think the hard part of the solution is that the needed societal level changes will encounter a lot of resistance (from all political directions).
posted by cosmic.osmo at 1:57 PM on June 24, 2013


That's a great commercial! I thought they were gonna have little life boats that explode and inflate underneath whomever jumps.
posted by ReeMonster at 2:02 PM on June 24, 2013


In 25 years, these will be replaced by sensors in the railing that can tell when you are preparing to jump, which then trigger a broadcast overriding your Google glasses feed with the same messages, but overlaid on top of videos of your family vacations, birth of your child, your parents, etc.

Your primary care physician, insurance company, and the local constabulary will also receive notices in your file. You might not be informed of that part.
posted by Celsius1414 at 2:11 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


In 25 years waterboards will be required to have 'it gets better' written on them
posted by Teakettle at 2:26 PM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


The solution to a high suicide rate? Don't examine the underlying factors that make people so utterly miserable that they want to kill themselves, but instead make it harder to commit suicide. Right.

Or maybe the people who maintain the bridge don't have the power to change underlying factors in society at large, but they do have the ability to modify the bridge.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 2:53 PM on June 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't get the flack for Blue_Villain -- I've been depressed and even experienced suicidal ideation in the past, and I completely understood his point. I think the solutions are pretty simple, or to put it another way, depression is a solvable (treatable) problem (illness). What's hard is getting the suicidal person to realize that they are in the grip of a depression rather than a "real" reason to end their life, and that's largely a factor of most people going untreated or resisting treatment with a legal and societal regime that allows them to short of very extreme situations. It's a cost, personnel, training, and social learning problem as much as it is a "brain" (i.e. black box, in this context) problem.

As ActingTheGoat says, the bridge people were solving the problem they could fix. They don't have the power or capability to invent a pill or a new therapy or fund a network of carers throughout South Korea to identify and treat the depressed before they become suicidal. That's fair. It's not on them to do that.

I can only speak for myself, but connections to other people, meaningful work, sunlight, autonomy, exercise, and other very simple, very human things make a huge difference in my well being.

I think this is an important point. I think it is fair to "blame society" in a sense, because we've created one that encourages people to be disconnected from others and from things that help their mental state. A more humane work-life balance, greener and more uplifting environments in cities, and stronger communities might be more effective than drilling down to the individual level and focusing on ways that they are broken.
posted by dhartung at 3:06 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't get the flack for Blue_Villain -- I've been depressed and even experienced suicidal ideation in the past, and I completely understood his point.
I can't speak for others, but I find the idea that depression is easier than nuclear physics to be beyond absurd. The medical state of the art regarding the brain is not all that far removed from trepanning.

Instead of cutting holes in people's skulls, we prefer to flood the brain with chemicals. This seems to work well enough in many cases, but we still don't know what is really going on. In order to properly understand how the brain functions, we need beyond LHC-scale data collection and analysis. And we also need a way to peer into the neural workings of the brain, as it is working, without harming the human.

Trepanning worked remarkably well for some people, just as modern chemical-psychology works for others. But to conclude that we even have a clue about what we are doing to the brain beyond "if we poke you here with this you feel that" is delusional. We have *certainly* made great progress since the middle ages (we know that neurons exist! and we know about neural transmitters!), but we are just wading ankle-deep in to the shallowest littorals of the deep and wide ocean of brain function.
posted by b1tr0t at 3:45 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


So making it "harder to commit suicide" (which is a weird way to describe this bridge, IMO -- it's not like they've put up high railings or barbed wire) in fact is a good way of helping alleviate misery.

It is true that this could help some people. But high suicide rates in a culture suggests a deeper problem. This bridge reminds me mightily of those nets Foxconn set up to catch workers who jump out of windows.

Why are they miserable in the first place? It is not the case that all depression is necessarily clinical, and therapy has its limits if someone's situation genuinely sucks. Maybe people find their whole upbringing has been focused towards making them a cog in a big machine in which they have no stake in its maintainence, that will roll on unceasingly with or without them.

Sometimes people have good reasons for being depressed. Getting treatment might make them less depressed, but it's not going to better their lives.

Attention must be paid.
posted by JHarris at 4:26 PM on June 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


b1tr0t: "I can't speak for others, but I find the idea that depression is easier than nuclear physics to be beyond absurd. The medical state of the art regarding the brain is not all that far removed from trepanning.

I think the crux of the controversy here is that many people believe depression is a biological illness that has causes in the brain. If we take that view, then arguing as Blue_Villain does that depression is simple sounds absurd. You're right that we don't know the first thing about proper brain function.

If, on the other hand, we view depression and suicide as a sociological problems—more akin to crime and poverty than to lupus—they look simpler. That's my view. I don't mean to diminish the seriousness of depression with this perspective, especially since I've a history with it myself, but I believe depression and the increase in the suicide rate are primarily attributable to non-biological factors—lack of social ties, autonomy, exercise, etc. which I mentioned in my earlier comment.

We've managed to put a man on the moon, yet we haven't figured out how to solve hunger and homelessness. Those ought to be simple compared the Apollo program for political reasons both are still common. I see depression as a similar issue, and if this perspective is correct, then the suicide rate is yet another example of the tragic irony of a society capable of incredible feats of technical achievement while being woefully incapable of the political and cultural changes necessary to meet the basic needs of human beings.
posted by Wemmick at 4:32 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think the crux of the controversy here is that many people believe depression is a biological illness that has causes in the brain. If we take that view, then arguing as Blue_Villain does that depression is simple sounds absurd. You're right that we don't know the first thing about proper brain function.

If, on the other hand, we view depression and suicide as a sociological problems—more akin to crime and poverty than to lupus—they look simpler. That's my view. I don't mean to diminish the seriousness of depression with this perspective, especially since I've a history with it myself, but I believe depression and the increase in the suicide rate are primarily attributable to non-biological factors—lack of social ties, autonomy, exercise, etc. which I mentioned in my earlier comment.
Another way to look at this is a question of scale rather than dichotomy. One of the things we do know about the brain is that it is physically a network of interconnected cells. Similarly, society is also a network a network of interconnections - not just between humans but also institutions and infrastructure.

Clearly some mental issues can be addressed by treating the individual with therapy, medicine, strategic placebo, etc. But other issues, and possibly some of the same issues, can be addressed socially. I would be very surprised if a full understanding of mental well-being lies entirely at either scale.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:00 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Samsung Life Insurance comes with a lifetime guarantee.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:26 PM on June 24, 2013


If Disney got into life insurance, the messages would be different.

I want to be a prince or a princess.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:47 PM on June 24, 2013


The problem with suicide is that it offends people who have a reason to live. But if you don't have a reason to live, why isn't suicide an option? It's like the whole Kevorkian thing. Some people are better off ending their own lives, but other people don't want them to do that.

Jumping off a bridge is a good way to kill yourself. Anecdotal evidence from people who have jumped off of bridges or buildings, and failed, suggests that there is an incredible sense of personal liberation before you hit the ground.

Slashing your wrists in a bathtub is another alternative. This is how the Romans did it. As the blood ebbs into the bathtub, you start to get giddy. You get high. As suicides go, it's pretty enjoyable.

Really, if your life is so miserable that Death seems like a better choice, who am I to say?

End it quickly. Move on. Enjoy a better afterlife.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:59 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just wanted to stop in to talk about Castaway on the Moon, one of my favorite Korean movies. The premise is this guy who commits suicide by jumping off a bridge, but instead of dying he lands on this inaccessible, uninhabited island in the middle of the Han river. So he's surrounded by one of the most densely populated cities in the world but stuck living a Robinson Crusoe/Castaway existence. And he ends up having this long distance romance with a hikikomori with a telescope. It's bizarre and implausible and just great. And on Netflix.
posted by pravit at 6:04 PM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I believe, to paraphrase the song, if you don't like things you leave. I don't think there is anything intrinsically valuable about life and I think it is incredibly heartless to ask people to participate in a state of being which tortures them. It is one thing to try to bring people back from the brink - but I honestly think that once you have freed yourself to consider death at your own hands rather than at circumstance, you will at best be running down the clock. Our culture shames suicidal ideation - we are asked to snitch on these people, we intervene with crude and insulting therapeutic instruments in order to spare ourselves the pain of admitting that the unknown might be better than the known.

You don't love by grabbing onto someone. You don't love by changing them. You don't love by saying their view of the world is diseased and temporary. You don't love by trying to avoid mourning someone's passing when you ought to be mourning their creation.

I would love for all life to be lived the best it can, but this world is as full of mysterious and unfathomable pain just as much as it is full of unfathomable mysterious joy. In this context we are given control of ourselves.

It is hard to compete with free - it's hard to compete with freedom.
posted by Teakettle at 6:14 PM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


We all commit suicide eventually by being alive.
posted by twoleftfeet at 6:20 PM on June 24, 2013


Perhaps I'm too cynical, but the "brought to you by Samsung Life Insurance" at the end kind of ruined the moment for me. At least I can say that it's nice that the corporate interests align with the individual ones in this particular case.

Life Insurance, at least in the States, often does not pay out on suicides.
posted by effugas at 6:45 PM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


How have you been?
What's troubling you?
If you need to get something off your chest, why don't you talk to us?
Burma Shave
posted by xedrik at 9:47 PM on June 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Instead of cutting holes in people's skulls, we prefer to flood the brain with chemicals.

Or, you know, talk to them at discrete periods separated by regular intervals.

The thing is, all of these work about as well as each other, which is one of the more frustrating ways in which we don't know how the brain actually works, but at the same time many simple things work as well as the more complex things we would like to master. Just because we don't have the mechanism worked out as well as, say, string theory and dark matter doesn't mean we don't know where the planets go, so to speak.

You're misunderstanding the science of the brain with treatment of mental illness. They are related, but not the same thing. We do understand treatment for depression, maybe not much better than a century ago, but our techniques haven't gotten actually worse.

And to speak to Wemmick, from personal experience, I believe that depression is a biologically-based illness that is defined in terms of sociology, if you get my drift. It is very much an illness of the modern world. Looked at the other way around, our brains do things (to us) that because of the shape of our world become a problem for individuals and social groups, and which we now label depression.
posted by dhartung at 1:24 AM on June 25, 2013


I'll go ahead and accept the 77% reduction on the bridge at face value.
But, I'd love for the other shoe to drop and see if there was a spike in suicides at other locations. Reducing the number of suicides at a particular location does not mean you've actually reduced total suicides by that number (though, I'm certain that total suicides have been reduced by some amount, thanks to the installation.)
posted by Thorzdad at 6:08 AM on June 25, 2013


If you were only talking about Foxconn nets perhaps, but this suicide prevention scheme seeks to change someone's mind about suicide, not just make it difficult at one spot. It's quite brilliant really.
posted by caddis at 8:30 AM on June 25, 2013


I know it doesn’t sound reasonable that reducing suicides in a particular spot won’t just move them someplace else, but suicide is anything but reasonable.

When I was nineteen, I had a severe bout of major depression, and it was like half my mind was just walled off. I just couldn’t form thoughts that weren’t about feeling miserable or the reasons I deserved to feel miserable. The strongest desire I had was to be dead, but getting from point A to point D seemed as insurmountable a task as everything else. It took me weeks to plan my attempt, and when I finally gathered enough energy to crawl to the bathroom to make my attempt, I discovered my pocket knife wasn’t quite sharp enough, or it was just a little too uncomfortable to press hard enough, or something. I spent about an hour slumped on the shower floor under the hot water, crying, then crawled back to bed.

If my suicide attempt had been a rational act, I suppose I could have figured out another method (or even just, you know, sharpened the damn knife), but that was it. Suicide was just another thing on the list of accomplishments that I was too damn worthless to ever achieve, and there was no plan B. I don’t think I could have planned a jump (I had read Beyond the Chocolate War and that passage freaked me out), but if I tried… as trite as those bridge messages are*, I believe they would have stopped me. (They sure wouldn’t cure the underlying depression, of course, or even have changed my mind about life being worth living at that moment—that’s a much longer process—but they would have thrown me off my plan, and that would have been enough to prevent it.)

I know different people have different experiences. These sorts of measure won’t deter everyone (and it’s far easier for somebody who hasn’t suffered major depression to understand the thought processes of precisely the people who would be least likely to be deterred), but they really do work, and I hope my experience can help explain why.

* (I don’t know that the empathetic, feel-good P.R. video approach is any more effective than just adding an inconvenient barrier, but I’m sure there are cultural differences between the US and South Korea.)
posted by nicepersonality at 9:46 AM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


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