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The World's favourite spot to die?
October 7, 2003 3:11 AM   Subscribe

Might as well jump. JUMP! An interesting article (nicked from linkfilter) about suicide and the Golden Gate Bridge. Only 26 people are known to have survived the 220 ft drop into water 350ft deep. I have been across the bridge once and was "amused" by the fact that there is a free counselling phone as you get halfway across. Reading this article and realising the numbers involved, it suddenly seems less funny... BTW, the jumper (who before he went a second time was one of the 26) protesting the Iraq War was discussed here.
posted by jontyjago (38 comments total)

 
I've read the article, and it amazed me how so many people have jumped to their deaths since it was made in the 1930's. But at the same time I am ambiguous to the prospect of putting up safety features, because most people wanted to commit suicide.

Of course, this is no excuse. I've been in situations were I wasn't thinking in the proper frame of mind and made poor decisions, and every jump off the golden gate bridge has been just that. Poor Decisions. Maybe the jump rate would decline if there was a PSA showing a persons eyes being eaten by crabs underneath the gates mighty pillars as the camera panned to the sea floor, strewn with hundreds of suicide notes.
posted by Keyser Soze at 3:58 AM on October 7, 2003


Does that bridge have a jumper pool like the one in Tampa/St. Pete?
posted by rcade at 4:07 AM on October 7, 2003


It might help to read the article, rcade.
posted by Keyser Soze at 5:02 AM on October 7, 2003


every jump off the golden gate bridge has been just that. Poor Decisions.

My, what a presumptuous, patronizing point of view....
posted by rushmc at 5:26 AM on October 7, 2003


St. Pete Times had a similar writeup in yesterdays paper regarding the skyway brige.
posted by poopy at 5:43 AM on October 7, 2003


I find it difficult not to think of jumping when I walk across the Golden Gate. Happy, depressed, it's not about how I feel or what I really want to do. It's just thoughts, just idle speculation. But it's there, in the back of my mind the whole time I'm on the bridge. Would I do it? No, because I don't want to die. But I can kind of understand the draw the bridge has for those that do.
posted by Nothing at 5:53 AM on October 7, 2003


I find it difficult not to think of jumping when I walk across the Golden Gate.
Gee, my thinking has been, "It sure looks sunny and warm over there in Sausalito."
posted by planetkyoto at 6:06 AM on October 7, 2003


Here's Toronto's hot spot to top yourself: the Bloor St. Viaduct. "Since 1919, the landmark bridge has attracted over 400 suicides, a world record second only to Golden Gate Bridge." Unfortunately, the new barrier... er... "Luminous Veil"... looks like hundreds of crosses placed askew on the bridge railings. And yes, there are distress phones at either end.
posted by stonerose at 6:13 AM on October 7, 2003


VanHalenFilter!
posted by UKnowForKids at 7:03 AM on October 7, 2003


This is why The Golden Gate Tunnel was "built."

I previously linked the Tunnel here, but the original site seems to have expired since then. Aw.
posted by brownpau at 7:11 AM on October 7, 2003


I am ambiguous to the prospect of putting up safety features, because most people wanted to commit suicide.

According to the article:

"..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."

In other words, the notion that they would commit suicide anyway is false. Suicide is a crisis mode behaviour, once the personal crisis has stoped people are no longer suicidal. A safety net would save many lives.
posted by stbalbach at 7:37 AM on October 7, 2003


It might help to read the article, rcade.

Nice snark, but I read the article. An apocryphal anecdote about a "local lumberyard" twenty years ago isn't the same thing as an elaborate and infamous competition like the Skyway Bridge Jumper Pool.
posted by rcade at 8:34 AM on October 7, 2003


I don't understand why they don't erect some form of safety barrier. I'm all for people being able to kill themselves if they want, but why make it easy?

When I visited the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland a few years ago, I was seized by a nearly irresistible urge to jump. Just get a running start and fly off. I wasn't depressed or suicidal in any way, but the notion of throwing myself into the abyss was incredibly alluring. I still think if I ever want to check out early I'll go there.
posted by widdershins at 8:55 AM on October 7, 2003


I've had that experience too, widdershins; I like to hike and climb, and often when I'm on some cliff edge I feel an irrational urge to hurl myself over the edge and free-fall - not to die, but just to jump. Maybe that's why people take up BASE-jumping. I can see why someone might want to end their life that way.

About the safety barrier on the bridge: I know it is a sensible idea, but I have a hard time overcoming a basically romantic opposition to it. There's something comforting about the idea that there's a way out if you ever really need it.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:33 AM on October 7, 2003


"Almost everyone in the Bay Area knows someone who has jumped, and it is perhaps not surprising that the most common fear among San Franciscans is gephyrophobia, the fear of crossing bridges."


Um... bullcrap.
posted by zeoslap at 9:42 AM on October 7, 2003


I would think that most most common fear among San Franciscans would be either Gray Davis or Arnold Schwarzenegger.
posted by mecran01 at 10:05 AM on October 7, 2003


"I would think that most most common fear among San Franciscans would be either Gray Davis or Arnold Schwarzenegger."

It's dropping a wallet and having to kick it all the way to Foster City to pick it up.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:14 AM on October 7, 2003


One more reason why I'd never live in San Francisco. I'm truly disgusted that concern for aesthetics trumps compassion in this matter. This blows the whole "liberal enclave" myth away for me.
posted by tommyspoon at 10:21 AM on October 7, 2003


It's dropping a wallet and having to kick it all the way to Foster City to pick it up.

What do you mean by that, mr_crash_davis? (I'm not from around there, you understand.)
posted by stonerose at 10:29 AM on October 7, 2003


I'm from here and even I don't understand it, stonerose!

I think it's interesting that you NEVER hear about jumpers. I had no idea so many people jumped from the bridge. How interesting. I however, know of NO ONE who has jumped, nor am I afraid of driving across bridges. That part of the article is sensationalism.

It would be sad if they put up a barrier. It's such a beautiful bridge. Is it heartless to say, "if someone wants to kill themselves, then let them?" I think the foot patrols and such are important, but it would really ruin the bridge's beauty if they put up big fences.
posted by aacheson at 10:48 AM on October 7, 2003


Almost everyone in the Bay Area knows someone who has jumped

i'm gonna echo zeoslap's bullshit call. that claim is so ridiculous it kinda ruined the article. it seemed like the writer was trying to make a story rather than tell one.

One more reason why I'd never live in San Francisco.

well, it's one more reason why we don't fucking want you. what are the others anyway? just curious so that i can flame your fucking city. ;)

this isn't an issue of aesthetics over compassion. it's a mountain out of a molehill. what if these ridiculous barricades prevented someone who really *wanted* to kill himself from doing it? is that a bad thing or a good thing?

where's the freedom, people? it's not like it's easy to jump off the Golden Gate bridge. bridges are not attractive nuisances until way more than 50 people jump a year. 50 people were probably killed by automobiles in the time i wrote this (ok, slight exaggeration, but i'm a slow writer).

liberalism usually (in my book) equates with freedom to me. free to be you and me, and free to jump off any bridge.

while i'm making ridiculous arguments, why don't we just scarify the face of every good-looking woman out there to lower the chances of sexual assault. b/c it doesn't work? hey, that's no reason not to try ...

on preview, stonerose, mr_crash_davis is referring to the ages-old joke about openly gay men. it's true, however. we all get butt-fucked when we move here. it's kind of an initiation.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:49 AM on October 7, 2003


Exactly. It's so you don't get teh buttsex, stonerose.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:53 AM on October 7, 2003


Uh...nice link name, jontyjago, really sensitive of you

Last Christmas day, a close friend lost one of her oldest and dearest friends to suicide. He jumped off the bridge. He had sent her and his other friends an e-mail suicide note. When she called his cellphone, the Highway Patrol picked up. Needless to say, she's been devastated. She can't even go near the bridge.


tommyspoon:One more reason why I'd never live in San Francisco. I'm truly disgusted that concern for aesthetics trumps compassion in this matter. This blows the whole "liberal enclave" myth away for me.

Hey, it sounds like you're just looking for reasons to hate S.F.. You really think that attitude is peculiar to S.F.? When was the last time you talked to someone who works in an ER, or a cop who has worked on cases of suicide? Or the average person on the street? Remember that case in Seattle, where motorists taunted a suicidal woman on a bridge because she was messing up their commute? Ignorance of and hostility toward the suicidal is not exclusive to S.F.. Please take your smug location bashing elsewhere.
posted by echolalia67 at 11:00 AM on October 7, 2003


it would really ruin the bridge's beauty if they put up big fences.

Well after reading that article the bridge, not to mention the citizens, are looking pretty ugly to me. I def won't be wasting any of my vacation money there.
posted by zarah at 11:07 AM on October 7, 2003


it would really ruin the bridge's beauty if they put up big fences.

zarah: Well after reading that article the bridge, not to mention the citizens, are looking pretty ugly to me. I def won't be wasting any of my vacation money there.

Again, this hostile attitude towards the suicidal is not peculiar to S.F. I for one, would welcome a barrier. It doesn't have to be asthetically unattractive to do the job. I think the problem is ignorance and predjudice toward the mentally ill, an attitude that is pervasive in our culture as a whole. People are frightened by the thought that someone could commit such a violent act upon themselves. It's easier to feel hostile toward the suicidally mentally ill than to think about what must be driving them to commit such a sad, tragic act.
posted by echolalia67 at 11:20 AM on October 7, 2003


Here's a link about the Seattle incident echolalia67 referred to. I'm reminded of Brandon Vedas, the kid who overdosed on webcam while being cheered on by an IRC channel (mefi thread here).
posted by arielmeadow at 11:28 AM on October 7, 2003


oh, mr_crash_davis, I got it - I was just pulling a serious face at your little "homophobic" joke. If I were a more sensitive type, with more time on my hands, I would haul your (virgin?) ass into MeTa. ;-)
posted by stonerose at 11:29 AM on October 7, 2003


as someone who once talked a man out of jumping off the bloor st viaduct (a pretty darn traumatic experience even tho' it turned out well) way back in the early 80's, let me say it was a huge relief when they finally got that "veil" up - i don't give a rat's ass what it looks like either. that it works is good enough for me, that it took so long disgusts me.

there's no good reason why sf cannot find a way to put a barrier up, there are all kinds of talented engineers and architects who could design something workable. i feel for the citizens who have been trying to get something done, that's a frustration i understand... it's hard to see your hometown seem so uncaring and shallow.
posted by t r a c y at 12:10 PM on October 7, 2003


I have to admit that there is something very threatening about interacting with someone who is that suicidally depressed. I can honestly see why police, ER staff, and the public at large feel so hostile towards people who are attempting to kill themselves. It's a glimpse into the darkest abyss of the human mind, and you can't help but soak up some of it. It's far easier to feel hostile toward the suicidal person than it is to admit that their pain resonates with you on some level. It's far easier to argue asthetics than it is to admit to yourself that barriers are needed because one day it could be you or a loved one standing out there.

Once, I had to stop someone from killing herself when I worked in a half-way house. I eventually had to have her hospitalized, because I realized that she was serious, had a workable plan, and that I could not keep her safe. The conversation has stayed with me to this day - having to listen to the woman describe her fantasy without commenting or giving advice, coaxing her plans out of her, and trying to negotiate a verbal no-harm contract with her. I've tried to get out of my mind her describing how her slashed wrists would sting as she she lowered herself into a swimming pool to bleed out. I can't though, and her despair haunts me.

Once, while in a deep, dark depression, I had an almost overwhelming compulsion to drive out to the GG bridge and jump. I looked down, saw the car keys in my hand, and thought "this is crazy". I walked to the nearest ER and basicly said, "I'm afraid of what I might do to myself, lock me up." Hardest decision I've ever made, but I'm glad I did. The only difference between someone like me and someone who actually does it is insight. I was able to realize that there was nothing in my life that was so awful that it warranted killing myself. Still, it took me hours of internal struggle to regain control of my mind and get to that insight.

I wish that more people understood, without fear and hostility, the pain that drives people to kill themselves. Maybe then we could get a barrier built.
posted by echolalia67 at 3:02 PM on October 7, 2003


while the topic is depressing as hell and the idea of bridge barriers sounds nice, i don't think it would have any real impact on the suicide rate: if someone is truly bent on doing themselves in they'll just tie concrete blocks to their feet, jump off a cliff or building, buy a nice big shotgun with big bullets, etc.
posted by poopy at 3:48 PM on October 7, 2003


Does anyone know where I can find the suicide video for Brandon Vedas? In Mpeg 2, high quality please.
posted by Keyser Soze at 12:58 AM on October 8, 2003


You really think that attitude is peculiar to S.F.?

In relation to bridge jumping, it seems to be a little bit particular to this city; the golden gate bridge had more than double the number of suicides of its closest competitor, and most other cities with hot spots like that have now put up barriers of some sort. Your point is valid, but according to this article, san francisco has a particular relationship to the issue.

the idea of bridge barriers sounds nice, i don't think it would have any real impact on the suicide rate: if someone is truly bent on doing themselves in...

did you read the article? Many suicides are committed almost on impulse - the guy who left a note at home saying that he wouldn't kill himself if one person smiled at him on the way to the bridge; the survivors, almost all of whom said they immediately regretted jumping once they were in the air; the fact that over 90% of failed suicide attempts in that study ended up living into old age...

the point is, thinking of suicide may be something that can't be stopped, but actually taking action is a big ordeal, and any number of things can get in the way, including that lack of a romantic spot to end it. Obviously it wouldn't solve the problem, but the arguments the author made (the "it's a public health issue" section) were pretty strong, I thought. I'd guess that most people I know have considered suicide abstractly at one point or another - if humans came with off buttons somewhere, a lot of us probably wouldn't be around.

But killing yourself is work; you have to figure out a method, buy the supplies, make a trip somewhere, have the balls to actually fling yourself over an edge, whatever it is - you have to feel you need it at that particular moment, enough to follow through. You have to stop yourself from thinking about family or friends or the possibilities of the future and be fully consumed by your own hate/sadness, and have the adrenaline/strength to actually do what you set out to do. If something or someone stops you along the way, you can get up the next day and think, what a beautiful morning. I'd love a cup of coffee.

humans are weird like that.
posted by mdn at 6:13 AM on October 8, 2003


yes i did read the article and the one in my local paper made many of the same arguments. i just don't believe that if this measure were imposed it would change the overall statistics.
posted by poopy at 7:02 AM on October 8, 2003


zarah: Well after reading that article the bridge, not to mention the citizens, are looking pretty ugly to me. I def won't be wasting any of my vacation money there.

we don't want your money. please stay home. especially all you fat-fuck drivers. move along, there's nothing to see here.

*waits patiently for economy to collapse, revolution to ensue ... dies waiting*

btw, i think it would be really cool if we came with "off" buttons. at least there would be a hell of a lot less people who hate themselves. i'm not bashing the suicidal - i deal with it constantly. if i ever got to that point, however, i wish i could just push a button instead of making someone find me with my brains blown out ... or haul my worthless ass out of the bay. however, i'd be damn sure to talk to someone else first, so i might not be typical.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:28 AM on October 8, 2003


I'm truly disgusted that concern for aesthetics trumps compassion in this matter.

Your idea of "compassion" sounds a lot like tyrannical intrusiveness to me. Why is minding one's own business so out of fashion these days?
posted by rushmc at 3:07 PM on October 8, 2003


As someone who recently had suicidal thoughts, I understand people's opposition to the physical barrier. The knowledge that the option to jump exists is comforting.

Anyway, I think the "human barriers" in the forms of patrols and phones are a far better solution. People who are suicidal need help. They need other human beings to reach out and connect with them. How does a physical barrier help a person get the help they need?
posted by spacewaitress at 5:07 PM on October 8, 2003




Some may recall Salon's 2001 take on the topic; and before that, the Stranger. Both more closely examine the psychology of the jumpers themselves, as well as the experiences of survivors. As well, the less-glamorous world of subway suicide jumpers has its own controversies.

My main objection to the human-intervention method is that it must be terribly hard on the human intervenors. The patrolmen are often lionized in these articles as blue-collar to the core, stumped by suicide, and seemingly immune to yuppie afflictions such as depression -- but this is a myth. The longer these patrols run, the more I wonder whether someday they'll find an empty patrol vehicle on the bridge.
posted by dhartung at 11:34 PM on October 8, 2003


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