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suicide barrier on the Golden Gate bridge?
February 24, 2006 6:39 PM   Subscribe

Over 1300 people have jumped to their deaths from the Golden Gate Bridge since it was built in 1937. Is it time to stop just filming them and install a net or fence-type "suicide barrier" to keep these people from killing themselves? Student-studies at Berkeley argue that barriers are effective. And Mary Zablotny, mother of a jumper, wants to know: "what kind of monster would stand there before me and tell me that aesthetics are more important than my son's life." Opponents argue that suicide is a public health issue that requires a holistic response, and is ill-addressed by simply blighting public landmarks, offering some - ahem - innovative alternatives. [some previous discussions]
posted by scarabic (123 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
My personal opinion, which I tried to keep out of the post, is that reasonable measures should be made to remove quick and easy suicide methods, because impediments to quick suicide do give people more of a chance to think and possibly back out. However, suicide is a personal choice and you can only do so much to prevent some people from killing themselves if they really want to. There is also immense uplifting value in beautiful public landmarks. How many people have gotten to the bridge, enjoyed the view, and decided to go home and give life another chance because it's just so goddamn beautiful? And even setting that aside, the GG is a uniquely gorgeous vantage point in the world which all of us, even those without suicidal tendencies, want to continue to enjoy in all its unobstructed glory. That is actually worth something. Maybe not more than someone's life, but it's worth much, much more than nothing at all.

Mrs. Zablotny's son killed himself. The bridge and those who love it did not. Similarly to the death penalty, I think bad things happen when you let the bereaved set policy. Struggling with the senseless death of her son, Zablotny feels some need to just do SOMETHING. This can be constructive. Or it can just be a flight from pain. A way to ignore any other factors in her son's decision and place blame on the City - a big, faceless entity that makes an easy target for one mother's pain.
posted by scarabic at 6:49 PM on February 24, 2006


This seems to overlook the fact that people who want to kill themselves, will find a way to kill themselves. Maybe we should outlaw guns as well, I imagine the number of suicides by handguns is more than 100x more than the number of bridge jumpers.
posted by Mijo Bijo at 6:50 PM on February 24, 2006


They shouldn't mess with the bridge.

I'm sorry your son jumped lady, but it's not the bridges fault.
posted by Relay at 6:54 PM on February 24, 2006


Since we've discussed this a million times, could you elaborate what is new and worthy of yet another FPP?
posted by keswick at 6:55 PM on February 24, 2006


Suicide gets a bad rap.

Everyone gets all teary-eyed at the tale of the old weary Indian* going out into the woods to meet his maker, but when Spalding Gray does essentially the same thing suddenly everyone gets all up about it.

*(Native American)
posted by HTuttle at 6:57 PM on February 24, 2006


Many attractive bridges have this problem. It may be wise to put some netting on the edges and then make it hard to get out of. It would be expensive though. Think millions of dollars. Anyone carrying cutters could go through it anyway.

People who commit suicide would rapidly find other ways. Indeed, many, if not most, subway networks have a real problem with people throwing themselves under trains. Where I live, in Melbourne, train drivers get 6 weeks off if they want after having someone kill themselves under their train. It is a major cause of drivers quitting as well. Some people think that there should be information asking people NOT to kill themselves under trains because in a weird way it is selfish.

The way the media reports suicide is interesting. In many western countries it kills as many people as car accidents, or an order of magnitude more people in the US every year than the September 11 attacks. And yet, with this huge toll, the media has a policy of reporting few suicides.
posted by sien at 6:57 PM on February 24, 2006


"reasonable measures should be made to remove quick and easy suicide methods, because impediments to quick suicide do give people more of a chance to think and possibly back out"

C'mon scarabic, you don't really think that do you? A reasonable measure is to just tell someone not to kill themselves - or say you draft laws against it; offer counseling. There are so many safety nets already in place and those that want that kill themselves walk right around them to their death. I appreciate your desire to want to save everyone but where does it end?
posted by j.p. Hung at 6:57 PM on February 24, 2006


Similarly to the death penalty, I think bad things happen when you let the bereaved set policy.

I think this statement describes a lot of what's wrong with society.

My dad and I got into a long argument about suicide barriers when the SF Chronicle did their series about it last year, and it came down to the issue that he didn't think that anybody ever actually wants to commit suicide. It's uncomfortable to think that, but I know that there are people who want to die so much that a barrier won't stop them. I know the barrier will stop a certain number of people, but perhaps more normal means of intervention, such as communication, can also help. It seems that suicide barrier is a convienent thing to rally behind out of frustration, rather than to help anybody.
posted by kendrak at 6:58 PM on February 24, 2006


I am of the opinion that we, in fact, need to make it easier for people to kill themselves at the Golden Gate bridge. Indeed, I would like to see it become a 50/50 situation that any given person would survive a trip across the bridge at all.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:58 PM on February 24, 2006


(Or Nutcase S. Thompson for that matter)
posted by HTuttle at 6:59 PM on February 24, 2006


I know you're probably not trying to imply this, but the rhetorical suggestion that "just filming" the suicides is somehow an improper and/or inadequate response seems to discount the fact that the filmmakers' intent was to draw attention to the often overlooked issue.

Another intriguing question, why is the bridge a magnet for plagarists?
posted by idontlikewords at 6:59 PM on February 24, 2006


This seems to overlook the fact that people who want to kill themselves, will find a way to kill themselves.

That is actually addressed in the Berkeley study link, fwiw. I'm interested to know what you think after checking that out. I tend toward your opinion, but the studies argue that overall number of suicides are in fact reduced.
posted by scarabic at 7:01 PM on February 24, 2006


but when Spalding Gray does essentially the same thing suddenly everyone gets all up about it.

Vanishing Act.
posted by ericb at 7:03 PM on February 24, 2006


Yeah, idontlikewords, that was more of just a turn of phrase. I do think the guy was sneaky and his project is a little creepy, but there were perhaps some good intentions in there.
posted by scarabic at 7:03 PM on February 24, 2006


If they mess up that bridge, I'm going to kill myself.
posted by soiled cowboy at 7:06 PM on February 24, 2006


In Toronto, they built this giant sort of mesh of metal I can't really describe to stop people from off the Bloor Street Viaduct.
posted by chunking express at 7:14 PM on February 24, 2006


Here at NYU, one of the dorms used to have balconies for the students who lived there. A couple of library suicides later, all the dorm's balcony doors were locked (NYT, reg req). That was certainly an extremely unpopular decision, and I can't imagine pissing off a city will be better than pissing off a dormful of students.
posted by booksandlibretti at 7:14 PM on February 24, 2006


An earlier post on the subject.

I agree with scarabic; I'd also submit the best prevention of suicide is educating people on the different methods and grim realities of suicide--I can only imagine this mother's anguish but a work of art should not be ruined just because some people want to live in Romper Room.
posted by fandango_matt at 7:28 PM on February 24, 2006


"what kind of monster would stand there before me and tell me that aesthetics are more important than my son's life."
I'll volunteer. How about "Hey, lady, why should things of beauty be spoiled just because your son was dumb enough to jump off a bridge instead of swallowing something lethal but painless?"
posted by kaemaril at 7:28 PM on February 24, 2006


I'd rather let people who already want to die kill themselves then fugg up the landscape. I guess that sucks for the people who care about them, but too bad. They shouldn't have been hanging out with depressed people.
posted by delmoi at 7:38 PM on February 24, 2006


I always thought it was funny that the Williamsburgh bridge has guardrails over land, but nothing over the water. Protecting people who may be underneath the bridge on land.

Drop the petition and back away from the bridge.
posted by Busithoth at 7:54 PM on February 24, 2006


The money would be wasted, most likely. Look at all of the bars on the Empire State Building. It hasn't been that effective. Someone jumped on Feb 2nd of this year. The guy made it into a vacant office somehow and bailed.
If someone wants to kill themself that bad, a few bars aren't going to stop them.
posted by drstein at 8:11 PM on February 24, 2006


...offer counseling. There are so many safety nets already in place...
posted by j.p. Hung at 6:57 PM PST on February 24 [!]


I don't know where you live, but if you're talking about safety nets as in places to go for help, you don't live in my home state. Attempting to secure help for a suicidal person, especially one without insurance, is, in my state, ridiculous, tragic, useless affair. Clinical depression cannot be cured with a 72 hour lockup stay in an open ward full of homeless schizophrenics off their meds and chronic street alcoholics violently detoxing. But that's what we offer where I live. Then you can get counseling, maybe, with a long wait, if you are so destitute you qualify for welfare. If not, tough luck. And forget antidepresants. No insurance, no med coupons, tough titties.
posted by onegreeneye at 8:18 PM on February 24, 2006


Perhaps they should make the bridge more consumer friendly:

posted by caddis at 8:19 PM on February 24, 2006


I live about a block from the Bloor Viaduct mentioned by chunking express. It is ugly, really ugly, so much so that they filmed several 'prison bridge' shotson it for Resident Evil II.

And you know what? There is a subway station conveniently located at either end of the bridge, in case you forget the veil is there you can still throw yourself in front of a train. As far as I know, it hasn't even made a dent in the suicide stats here in Toronto, either.
posted by id girl at 8:29 PM on February 24, 2006


"Hey, lady, why should things of beauty be spoiled just because your son was dumb enough to jump off a bridge instead of swallowing something lethal but painless?"
posted by kaemaril at 7:28 PM PST on February 24 [!]


My dog needs chiropractic.
MeFi response: Poor doggy! We wuv doggies!

A stranger in Africa claims to need $50 to buy and resell a cow for profit:
MeFi response: Take $5000! We love you!

Autistic kid throws a basketball.
MeFi response: OMG! I'm CRYING! I love you, Autism!

Anguished mother processes grief over son's suicide.
MeFi response: Screw you lady. Your kid was STUPID. The bridge didn't kill the kid, he was STUPID. He certainly wasn't REASONABLE (duh). We should make it easier for dopes like your kid to DIE, lady. In fact, here's a picture of a diving board. Stick that in your grief pipe and smoke it. That's what you get for hanging with a depressed person!
posted by onegreeneye at 8:34 PM on February 24, 2006


Maybe I'll go to hell for this, but suicide should not be made more difficult. I'm probably over-sensitive to it since a relative is a cop, but the number of suicidal folks who are willing to take others out with them is pretty high. Think "suicide by cop" or more likely, getting trashed and driving a car too fast. I do agree that the media should get over its (Catholic?) prejudices and just report the news: people of all ages and backgrounds end it all the time in modern society. We should discuss it, not push it under the rug.

(Am I dreaming that there was some sort of aging super-model that recently killed herself and a few other people, intentionally, in a car accident?)
posted by bardic at 8:39 PM on February 24, 2006


Anguished mother processes grief over son's suicide.
MeFi response: Screw you lady. Your kid was STUPID.


I think if you read my first comment, onegreeneye, you'll find that I understand she's processing grief but still disagree with her.

Your point is taken however. I think people are a little less wuvvy-boo-boo with human being than animals because we expect humans to be responsible for their actions. The African and autistic straw men you pose are both, at least, examples of people striving against great odds. Choosing not to take responsibility for ending one's own life is, in fact, a little less sympathetic. It's true.

Hey, lady, why should things of beauty be spoiled just because your son was dumb enough to jump off a bridge

I'm going to say something really evil here:

If 1300 people jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?

/going to hell
posted by scarabic at 8:43 PM on February 24, 2006


Bridges don't kill people (unless they fall on you in an earthquake), people jumping from bridges kill people.

Suicide is very often a momentary impulse that a suicide barrier might help to provide enough of an impediment to a percentage of people to make it worthwhile to do. But at what cost? There's always a range of actions and reactions. And I can definitely see how throwing yourself under a train could be seen as selfish.

Yes, we could make it impossible for anyone to commit suicide by jumping from the bridge but the bridge would necessarily be changed and not be the same bridge.
posted by fenriq at 8:52 PM on February 24, 2006


MeFi response: Screw you lady. Your kid was STUPID. The bridge didn't kill the kid, he was STUPID. He certainly wasn't REASONABLE (duh). We should make it easier for dopes like your kid to DIE, lady. In fact, here's a picture of a diving board. Stick that in your grief pipe and smoke it. That's what you get for hanging with a depressed person!

All human experiences are not equivalent. How I might respond to a wounded animal, some poor guy in Africa, or a kid who just lived a dream don't bear any relevance to how I might responsed to someone who threw themselves off a bridge in a very grand and public "fuck you" to anyone who ever cared about them.
posted by Cyrano at 8:58 PM on February 24, 2006


Scarabic: I wasn't addressing any one comment specifically, but compiling. Interesting point you make though - apparently battling crushing depression of the sort that makes one, against all instinctual desire to live, feel hopeless enough to actually end ones life doesn't qualify for you as "striving against" something difficult. Interesting. And your "Choosing not to take responsibility for ending one's own life is, in fact, a little less sympathetic" is in reference to whom? I don't think the dead have been polled as to whether or not they accept responsibility for their suicides nor has that even been part of the discussion. My comment was on the lack of compassion for human suffering of those we consider peers vs. those we feel superior to, like retarded kids and starving folks in other countries far, far away.

Lastly, I work with violent offenders and victims, and so understand gallows humor as a coping skill when dealing with a difficult subject. Still, I'd be ashamed of myself had I posted some of the above. At the end of the day, I can't imagine being particularly proud of the diving board post. And before you tell me, I am aware that it is just my opinion, an that plus $1.50 will get you on the bus.
posted by onegreeneye at 9:00 PM on February 24, 2006


Maybe if we just started selling over the counter suicide kits, featuring a bottle of water and some cyanide pills, or something, we wouldn't have to deal with this bridge crap.

I guess the bridge route does spare their loved ones from finding the body.
posted by graventy at 9:04 PM on February 24, 2006


"what kind of monster would stand there before me and tell me that aesthetics are more important than my son's life."

The kind of monster who thinks that a person's right to create and display something grand in its intended, unfettered form is greater than another person's right to deface same out of a selfish drive.

I'll concur with everyone who thinks you can't stop a determined suicide, and state that suicide is a personal choice that should get a little more respect. They're our lives to do with what we will.
posted by chudmonkey at 9:04 PM on February 24, 2006


Having lost an aunt to suicide fairly recently, I find some of the comments in this thread baffling. Maybe the mom's wrong for not considering that suicidal people will just move to Exit Plan B if they can't easily jump off a bridge, but to mock her suffering is despicable. I would imagine most suicidal people probably don't have much interest in choosing a nice inoffensive way of killing themselves, and expecting their grieving family members to just soberly say "Well, (s)he was a dumbass, sorry for the inconvenience everyone"... christ.

kaemaril, my aunt chose a lethal but far from painless array of pills to end her life. Does that make it okay? Out of sight, out of mind? Does that work for you?
posted by kryptondog at 9:06 PM on February 24, 2006


Cyrano: It certainly feels like a "fuck you" to those who cared. But it isn't about them. That's where saying it's a selfish act is true. But then so is living, unless you're living completely for someone else - which we ask the suicidal to do - and how many folks do you know who live completely for someone else? Survivors often want to couch suicide in a "you did this to us" mindset, because perhaps it's easier to be really fucking mad at the dead than it is to realize that they lost their battle with their own suffering, and couldn't live for themselves much less for us. In the end, it's easier to be angry than to accept the tragedy of it. Perhaps more significantly, it prolongues your grief, and thus your connection to the dead, to be really fucking mad at them because once you let go of being angry at them, what's left? Just the loss.
posted by onegreeneye at 9:07 PM on February 24, 2006


Eighteen per year? That's hardly a public health crisis. Leave the bridge alone.

Of those eighteen per year, how many do you think were literally driving across the bridge and suddenly stopped the car and ran to the edge and leapt?

I claim no special knowledge on the subject, but suicides seem to be very carefully thought out and prepared for (i.e. special clothes/occassions/locations, suicide letters, etc) at least as often, if not more so, than sudden impulsive actions.

Is there data showing suicides tend to be impulsive more often than not? If so, that would not only be surprising, but a bit scary as well.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:09 PM on February 24, 2006


I stand by my comment. If you want to kill yourself, that's fine by me. It's your life, and how you choose to live it (and end it) is down to you. Just don't ruin it for the rest of us by lobbing yourself off a bridge, leading to people demanding that bridges should be made "safe" against suicides whilst making them eyesores, instead of chugging down a few pills, hanging yourself, sticking your head in a gas oven, blasting your brains out or any number of other popular choices that don't hugely inconvenience the public at large. It may sound heartless, but really it's just being polite.


... what?
posted by kaemaril at 9:12 PM on February 24, 2006


apparently battling crushing depression of the sort that makes one, against all instinctual desire to live, feel hopeless enough to actually end ones life doesn't qualify for you as "striving against" something difficult.

Oh! I KNEW you would misread my comment in exactly this way. Read it again. I have plenty of sympathy for people who are moved to suicide. Surviving families who don't accept their choice and allow them to own the responsibility for it are "less sympathetic."

There's a disctinction people depressed people who kill themselves and those who blame 3rd parties for their actions. And there's a difference between disregarding their pain and being less than enthusiastic about supporting their outraged survivors.

Come on now.
posted by scarabic at 9:15 PM on February 24, 2006


saying it's a selfish act is true. But then so is living, unless you're living completely for someone else - which we ask the suicidal to do

This is a really insightful comment, btw.
posted by scarabic at 9:18 PM on February 24, 2006


I would imagine most suicidal people probably don't have much interest in choosing a nice inoffensive way of killing themselves

You know, having spent a significant amount of my life depressed, and several stints of it suicidally so, I feel as though I have valid cause to comment on this. Frankly, much of my thought at the time *did* amount to trying to figure out a nice inoffensive way of killing myself. I used to frequent the alt.suicide.holiday newsgroup back in the day, and a surprisingly large number of people there were very interested in finding out the same thing. I certainly wasn't alone.

For what it's worth, I never even tried suicide, not even close. I could never get over the fact of how much it would hurt the people who loved and cared about me. I didn't really want to die, as such, I just didn't want to live with such horrifying emotional pain.

I don't think a person who has never been there can really comprehend what it's like.

Anyway, thank goodness for modern pharmaceuticals, without which things would be much more horrifying, no doubt.
posted by beth at 9:21 PM on February 24, 2006


kryptondog : kaemaril, my aunt chose a lethal but far from painless array of pills to end her life. Does that make it okay? Out of sight, out of mind? Does that work for you?
I'm sorry your aunt went for the painful and lethal instead of the painless and lethal approach, but I assume she had her own reasons for ending her life.

OTOH, if she didn't and she was operating under a mental illness then I'm sorry she killed herself.

Either way, it works for me that she chose to do it in a way that didn't traumatise and/or inconvenience the public at large, as she might have done if she'd thrown herself off a bridge or in front of a train.

Or would you have liked a young kiddie to have witnesses your aunt killing herself in a messy fashion? Would that work for you? Hey, look, I can play the righteous indignation game too.
posted by kaemaril at 9:22 PM on February 24, 2006


The world is overpopulated.
posted by j-urb at 9:22 PM on February 24, 2006


Ynoxas and kaemaril did you check the Berkeley student studies link, which argues that people do NOT just find other ways to kill themselves when a bridge is unavailable to them? I'm not saying I agree, but a lot of folks seem to be skipping over that point, and I found it one of the more complex and thought-provoking in the wanderings that composed this post.

What do you make of it? If 100 people want to kill themselves and 3 can be saved by making it harder to do....? Are 3 lives worth the inconvenience and esthetic loss of the bridge's walkway? How about 10? You see where I'm going...
posted by scarabic at 9:22 PM on February 24, 2006


Maybe if we just started selling over the counter suicide kits, featuring a bottle of water and some cyanide pills, or something, we wouldn't have to deal with this bridge crap.

A Dutch law professor suggested such a thing, but he'd have liked it to be a two stage process. You take component A and after 48 hours you take component B to end your life. If you take both components at the same time, nothing happens, if you only take one, you're also not going to die. He suggested that such a suicide kit would be very useful for the elderly who are often very depressed by the decay and loss of their friends. Unfortunately this set of pills doesn't exist, and I don't think any pharmaceutical company wants to burn its fingers researching it.

I'd love to have such a pill, so when I want to kill myself, I won't cause too much (psychological) harm to others.
posted by kika at 9:23 PM on February 24, 2006


Incidentally, I know someone who was almost hit by someone jumping off the Notre Dame to commit suicide upon the pavement below. The person standing next to my friend was, in fact, killed by it.

Now that's downright impolite.
posted by scarabic at 9:25 PM on February 24, 2006


A few things:

1) Am I missing it, or did no one link to this article from the New Yorker a few years ago, about this very topic of taking the big swan dive off of the Golden Gate? Choice quotes:

"Survivors often regret their decision in midair, if not before... 'I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.' "

And [emphasis added]:

"Kevin Hines was eighteen when he took a municipal bus to the bridge one day in September, 2000... he paced back and forth and sobbed on the bridge walkway for half an hour. No one asked him what was wrong. A beautiful German tourist approached, handed him her camera, and asked him to take her picture, which he did. “I was like, ‘Fuck this, nobody cares,’ ” he told me. “So I jumped.” But after he crossed the chord, he recalls, “My first thought was What the hell did I just do? I don’t want to die.”

2) I'm a New Yorker. Big fan of the Brooklyn Bridge. I've never been to the Golden Gate Bridge, although I think it's fair to say that I love me some nature, some beautiful picture-postcard-views. And you know what? I couldn't agree more with the above-quoted mother. I just don't see how the view could be ruined by a protective fence. Compromised - that I could buy. But ruined? Sounds a little shrill to me.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 9:26 PM on February 24, 2006


Suicides seem to have very specific notion how they want to end it, and the methods don't seem interchangeable. I wonder if there is any information why people choose the particular way they commit suicide.
posted by semmi at 9:27 PM on February 24, 2006


Scarabic: I dont think I misread what you have subsequently reworded. Nor do I think the mother is blaming the bridge or anyone else, or saying her kid wasn't the architecht of his acts. Rather, she's attempting to spare (whether misguided or not) anyone else the lifetime anguish this has bought her. I've been taught, and cops are as well - still - I believe, that the impulse to actually do the deed (vs lingering depression) combined with the opportunity to do it, occur together in a very small window and pass relatively quickly (albeit repeatedly over time, no doubt). So, her belief that making the impulse jumper less able to act may save some lives isn't far fetched. I'm not supporting altering the bridge - and haven't even addressed that. I was, instead, commenting on the lack of sympathy for those who suffer in a way most of us will, thankfully, never fully comprehend.
posted by onegreeneye at 9:29 PM on February 24, 2006


scarabic : So ... what? If a bridge isn't available people are less likely to kill themselves? Installing barriers would save some lives? Well, maybe. But then, barriers can be circumvented. For true safety, the answer seems obvious. Remove the bridges. If they're such suicide magnets, it can be the only responsible thing to do.

Of course, all those ferries would be very expensive... but I'm sure throwing yourself off a ferry would never occur to anyone, and even if it did a traditional shout of "Man overboard" ... you see where I'm going ...

Once you start down the route of making sure every possible avenue of suicide is made "suicide safe" it just gets ludicrous. The solution must surely be to find ways of helping people who are feeling suicidal before they start looking for convenient exit points. Because those exit points will ALWAYS be there.
posted by kaemaril at 9:35 PM on February 24, 2006


I didn't really want to die, as such, I just didn't want to live with such horrifying emotional pain. I don't think a person who has never been there can really comprehend what it's like. posted by beth at 9:21 PM PST on February 24 [!]

Bingo.
I attended the funeral of a friend who, after 10 years in and out of hospitals, 11 antidepressants none of which worked, and electroshock said, I can't live in this much pain anymore. He drove into the cop parking garage and shot himself, trying to spare civilians finding him (and thus traumatizing the hell out of his coworkers and the civilian staff). He was Catholic. At his funeral a woman insisted on repeating, in front of his family, that as a suicide he was going to burn in hell and what a terrible thing that was to do to his family. I will never understand the urge (of those who cannot possibly comprehend the sort of suffering that leads one to end their life) to rub suicide in the faces of the families or jeer at the shellshocked survivors.

Beth: Best wishes to you for happiness in your life.
posted by onegreeneye at 9:40 PM on February 24, 2006


scarabic : "the Berkeley student studies link, which argues that people do NOT just find other ways to kill themselves when a bridge is unavailable to them"

The relevant excerpts:

"There is research supporting that when people are stopped from committing suicide off the bridge, they don't commit suicide by other means," says Lawrence Wallack, professor of health education in the School of Public Health at UC Berkeley and a founding member of the Suicide Barrier Coalition. "Anything that makes it more difficult for people to commit suicide, that gives them some time to reconsider, is definitely a good idea."
...
"In all situations, when you restrict lethal means then overall suicide rates in the area go down," she says. "You can never be certain you will prevent all potential suicides from the bridge, but you can be certain that people will not continue to die in large numbers. A barrier would prevent the impulsive suicides as well the very planned suicides, where someone travels here specifically to jump off the Golden Gate Bridge."

They assert rather than argue. Where's this research?
posted by Gyan at 9:43 PM on February 24, 2006


I think some suicides will amount to a momentary impulse that will go away and when the suicide is prevented the person may appreciate live later on. These people are temporarily ontoerekeningsvatbaar (can't think of the english word: legal term for not being able to make decisions for themselves).

Other people may hate their existence permanently. There are people for whom life is a continuous state of anguish and fear for instance. So for them the argument of "prevent them from killing themselves and they'll come to their senses" does not apply. One could say that these people know what they're doing.

The second category will find a way to kill themselves. And it should not be a way were they splatter themselves in the view of someone else such as jumping in front of a train or jumping in the backyard of somebody.

Society is not able to address the second category because it implies that some lives are not worth living and some people can not be saved. That is a scary thought.
A lot of people cope with life using a ban on negative thinking. Studies show that depressed people are able to assess situations that are related to themselves more objectively. 'Hanging out with depressed people' and acknowledging that, no, some life situations do not get better, punctures their positive bias and leaves them weaker to fend off their own depressive feelings.

The other problem is, of course, that there is no clear and objective way to tell the difference between the first and the second category.
posted by jouke at 9:46 PM on February 24, 2006


MeFi response: Screw you lady.

"many experts who believe the 4 1/2-foot-tall rail on the Golden Gate Bridge is so easy to climb over that it almost invites suicide."

no..., using the word Over in "Over 1300 people"; as no height may stop one going over the railing when committing suicide.
posted by thomcatspike at 9:58 PM on February 24, 2006


As part of the Chron's series on this, the extraordinary graphic artist Todd Trumbell did a very compelling chart illustrating location of suicides and number per year.

There's also a podcast from Ken Baldwin, a fellow who jumped and survived.

"I knew that I wanted to live from the moment my hands left the bridge," Baldwin said.
posted by jasper411 at 10:00 PM on February 24, 2006


But then, barriers can be circumvented.

But. This. Is. The. Point.

People don't circumvent them.
At least, some don't. Some go home. Or so the studies claim. Apparently your reaction is to just kind of shrug. I am not quite sold on the barrier myself, but I admit the supported argument that people don't just find other ways to kill themselves, that a barrier can actually save lives, net, gave me pause.
posted by scarabic at 10:01 PM on February 24, 2006


As someone mentioned before, NYU installed Plexiglass barriers on library balconies after their series of suicides, which was vastly unpopular (if I'm remembering correctly). I'm of the mindset that people who really want to kill themselves can probably find away, but that said, I'm all for barriers if they protect the rest of us.

I'm sure NYU had to do that because they stood as much risk of a lawsuit from the parents of someone who was killed by a jumper than anything else.

With the bridge, I don't know if that's such a concern.
posted by anjamu at 10:04 PM on February 24, 2006


kaemaril: My response had less to do with any of your points and more to do with you being a heartless asshole in making them. Naturally I don't think that it does any good for suicidal people to broadcast their suicides to the world- though, again, I don't think suicidal people are often in a position to rationally make that decision. For what it's worth, my aunt ended her life in her bedroom, with her two children (my cousins) at school.

I was close to my aunt, and her choice really hurt me. But despite the pain it caused, she had her reasons (though I'm not going any further with this in the blue, my e-mail is james.labove@gmail.com if you're curious at all). I think the horrible situation gives me perspective enough on the subject to point out your callousness. Call it righteous indignation if you like. I still found your comments, among others', to be despicable. Forgive me if they struck a nerve with me.
posted by kryptondog at 10:08 PM on February 24, 2006


Suicide is eminently preventable -- for every person who is steadfastly determined to take their own life, there are 20 who simply succumb to a short-lived impulse.

Here's a very appropriate quote: "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,”"

Hah, looking back over the comments I see someone else read that same article and remembered it, good on you.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:11 PM on February 24, 2006


I was, instead, commenting on the lack of sympathy for those who suffer in a way most of us will, thankfully, never fully comprehend.

Okay, then you must not have been talking to me. If I need to reword anything subsequently, it's this poorly-constructed sentence:

"Choosing not to take assign responsibility for ending one's own life to the decesaed is, in fact, a little less sympathetic."

Ultimate responsibility lies with the suicide. Simple.
posted by scarabic at 10:11 PM on February 24, 2006


"I knew that I wanted to live from the moment my hands left the bridge," Baldwin said.

Who here remembers SpiderMan's account of catching a jumper and being surprised to find him grasping back for dear life?
posted by scarabic at 10:15 PM on February 24, 2006


kryptondog : Sorry, I'm confused now. What am I being callous over? My perfectly understandable desire to not be witnessing, or inconvenienced by, people throwing themselves from bridges or under trains when there are less messy - and less painful - ways of achieving the same result? Or is it that I'm callous for not wanting objects of beauty to be tampered with all in the name of a "safety feature" that wouldn't be necessary were it not for the selfish actions of a few - possibly depressed, possibly rational - suicidal individuals?

If I'm callous for not wanting a society where we have to have netting around every tall object, plexi-glass barriers in front of train platforms and roads, and god knows what else "safety features" for every imaginable danger just to prevent a few individuals from seeking a spectacular end then so be it.

Do I have sympathy for the few mentally ill people who make an irrational choice to end themselves? Yes, of course. Do I think that we as a society should bend over backwards through loops to physically prevent that? No.
posted by kaemaril at 10:22 PM on February 24, 2006


" I wonder if there is any information why people choose the particular way they commit suicide."

That's an interesting question. I thought about it for a while and figured that there might be a possibility of linking specific personality types to certain methods (or at least smaller subgroups of method "styles"). If you were to try and "guess" what method peoples would choose simply by judging their personality, you'd probably even end up with a decent accuracy rate (assuming you know these people well enough).

However, in the end, I think it's still totally random. I thought about what I would do and I really can't tell. I'm pretty obsessive compulsive (neat/organizational freak) and I'm also the type of person that tries to avoid causing major problems or inconveniences with relatives. These things lead me to believe that I would choose pills: no mess! But then I think of the adrenaline junky side of me and I'm like "Screw pills! I would love to jump off the GG bridge!" or do something exotic like that. Once in a lifetime (hehe). Then you have the good ol' handgun method: sure it's messy, but it's short, sweet, classic.

You never know until you're there. It depends on a) what type of depression you are going through (sad, angry, desperate etc.) b) personality and c) what's available (if you have a gun available that certainly increases the possibility of choosing that)

6 million ways to die... Choose one.

Nice question though. Oh, and great post onegreeneye =)
posted by jahmoon at 10:25 PM on February 24, 2006


Suicide sucks. It's not painless, for the one dying usually, and for their family/friends. No matter how much effort we'd put into improving the society which presents too many reasons for despair, some will still fall. How bad is it when treatment looks like a horror worse than death, as is the case too often with institutions?

The idea of bungee jumping from the bridge to support programs is an excellent one. What's wrong with American culture that this would be such a strange thing to do? The South African government makes money by renting bridges for such uses. One of them I intend to do (the one that isn't head-first, thank you). One of them is so incredibly stunning people not jumping are still willing to pay just to walk out there, under the roadway. (self links)
posted by Goofyy at 10:28 PM on February 24, 2006


An aside I find it extremely curious that so many people would jump off the bridge facing towards the bay instead of towards the ocean. I have vertigo, and my version is the one where you want to jump off stuff, generally into as much space as possible (just to see what would happen- I swear a tiny part of my brain thinks it can fly or float indefinetely). I've been on the GGB many times and I'd think that if you were, like me, the kind of person who might be influenced by the easiness of jumping or are generally tempted to jump off of things you'd jump on the ocean side. It makes me wonder how solid that argument is.

Also if I saw someone crying and pacing on a bridge or staring over the edge and looking nervous I would certainly approach them and ask if they were OK, so I also find it bizarre that other people wouldn't.
posted by fshgrl at 10:29 PM on February 24, 2006


A senior at my high school killed himself by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. But I don't believe he "succumbed to a short-lived impulse," (from most accounts he had made up his mind weeks before), and so I find it hard to blame the bridge for his death. I suppose it made it easier, but most likely he would have found another way.

I think the reason people are so fascinated with bridges as a method of suicide is because of the drama and social stigma attached to them. Like Mijo Bijo said, how many people die each year by shooting themselves? Why are we not talking about banning handguns? Because death by handgun is much less interesting.

This seems similar to the uproar around GTA-style games and the violence that supposedly stems from them. As fenriq said, bridges aren't the cause of suicide, people are. It is much easier to spend a few million dollars hitting the Golden Gate with the Ugly Stick® than addressing the real issues behind suicide.
posted by anarcation at 10:32 PM on February 24, 2006


goofyy, that is a very windy spot and a lot of tall boats go under that bridge every day. I don't think that bungee jumping would be a good idea.
posted by fshgrl at 10:33 PM on February 24, 2006


I'm strangely reminded of the futurama episode where the crew tries to cross the hover-ggb in a non-hover car.
posted by crunchyk9 at 10:33 PM on February 24, 2006


posted by fshgrlAn aside I find it extremely curious that so many people would jump off the bridge facing towards the bay instead of towards the ocean.

Everyone thinks it's because people who jump want to see the City one last time before they die, but the unfortunate truth is the reason most people jump from the east side (the side facing San Francisco) is because the east side of the span is for pedestrians. The west side of the span is bicycles-only.
posted by fandango_matt at 10:36 PM on February 24, 2006


When I was a homeless teenager in the SF Bay area, I walked across the Golden Gate Bridge a few times. It always gave me a chill to see the counseling phones for suicides at regular intervals on the bridge.
posted by evariste at 10:38 PM on February 24, 2006


stop defending your principles, kaemaril. kryptondog made it pretty clear that he respects your point of view but thought you were rude and insensitive in how you presented it. Don't be "confused," just read the comments:

My response had less to do with any of your points and more to do with you being a heartless asshole in making them
posted by scarabic at 11:02 PM on February 24, 2006


facing towards the bay instead of towards the ocean

Yeah, that's where the walkway is. But to your point, the Pacific Ocean is a grand expanse of flat blue chop, even where the view is good. The Bridge doesn't even offer a wide view of the ocean, and (probably) due to all the shipping traffic that comes trough there and concomitant pollution, there's not a lot of charming wildlife, either. Go up to Half Moon Bay and it's a different story.

On the other hand, there's no better view of San Francisco (by all accounts a beautiful city). Actually, there is one better vantage point: Alcatraz island. If you ever visit it and listen to the cheesy audio tour, you'll learn that it was considered a curse to be in a cell on the side of the island with the view: it was tantalizingly good, especially for a lifer.
posted by scarabic at 11:08 PM on February 24, 2006


people can commit suicide by falling in all kinds of places...with golden gate bridge, the issue is that it is famous as a suicide spot, and that seems more what is being discouraged...and there are practical reasons for it besides just protecting the lives of the hopeless/confused...besides the attendant air of personal tragedy, which obviously carries little weight these days amongst those not in the midst of it, there are local costs involved in rescue attempts and body recovery/identification, family notification, etc...and the arguments against a barrier seem to revolve primarily around cost (despite the fact that it might offset costs), aesthetics (which barrier proposals take into consideration rather well, as much as anyone would really notice, and by the way where were you assholes when starbucks and mcdonald's signs started popping up on every fucking street corner?), and the idea that people have some kind of right to kill themselves in a fashonable ocean-view location, with opposition to this somehow implying judgment or condemnation of suicide in general...i mean, i'm all for biological self-determination, but at least make arrangements to clean up after yourself...
posted by troybob at 11:40 PM on February 24, 2006


Camus was right.

Some very reasonable people decide that life is not worth living. People who wish to stop them are IMO more loathesome than even drug warriors.

Fucking hubris.
posted by Kwantsar at 11:49 PM on February 24, 2006


I stood on the ledge of a bridge on October 31, 2003. Obviously, I didn't jump. Why? I didn't know if they'd be able to identify my body and if they couldn't, well, who would feed my dog? He'd starve to death without me.

I considered going home and getting him. Taking him with me. But, hey, that's not fair and I'm a fair guy, generally. So I told myself I'd put a note in my pocket explaining who I was and asking for someone to take care of Satchel. Problem was, I didn't have any paper--or a pen--with me. I had to go home to get it.

I haven't stepped onto the ledge of a bridge since and it hasn't occured to me that I should. Even given this past, I don't like the idea of the barriers.

kaemaril, I can't believe you think not wanting to be inconvenienced by another's pain is "perfectly understandable". You know, if you're ever on a subway train or platform and you're late for work or a date or whatever because someone was "dumb enough" to leap into the tracks... ? Instead of cursing said jumper's lack of suicidal ettiquette, maybe you should use that time to learn some fucking humility.

(Jesus, how sad is it that someone who admits to standing on the ledge of a bridge thinks "There but for the grace of God, go I." when they catch a glimpse into your twisted thought process?)
posted by dobbs at 11:53 PM on February 24, 2006


I think people are a little less wuvvy-boo-boo with human being than animals because we expect humans to be responsible for their actions.

er I'd have to disagree. Our hearts bleed when we see bald kids going through chemo, feel sorry for the guy in a wheelchair but if they are mentally ill, well ... screw 'em. I think there is still huge amounts of stigma attached to mental illness and don't think that is going to change anytime soon.

They assert rather than argue. Where's this research?

"There is also evidence that restriction of method availability is often associated with a reduction in method specific suicide rates. There is some evidence that restrictions on method availability under certain conditions may reduce overall suicide rates."[link]

and

"Suicide safety barriers were removed from a central city bridge in an Australasian metropolitan area in 1996 after having been in place for 60 years. The bridge is a known suicide site ..."

"Removal of safety barriers led to an immediate and substantial increase in both the numbers and rate of suicide by jumping from the bridge in question. In the 4 years following the removal of the barriers ... the number of suicides increased substantially, from three to 15" [link]

one last one:

"In 1998, after a series of suicides, a safety net was built to prevent people from leaping from the terrace ... We analyzed the numbers of suicides by jumping before and after the installation of the net ... After the installation of the net no suicides occurred from the terrace. The number of people jumping from all high places in Bern was significantly lower compared to the years before, indicating that no immediate shift to other nearby jumping sites took place." [link]
posted by squeak at 1:07 AM on February 25, 2006


squeak : "There is some evidence that restrictions on method availability under certain conditions may reduce overall suicide rates."

Unfortunately, I don't have a subscription to read the actual article, so this is just another assertion, so far. Can you paste the excerpt where they paraphrase this research?

squeak : "In the 4 years following the removal of the barriers ... the number of suicides increased substantially, from three to 15"

which is followed by

Following the removal of the barriers from the bridge the rate of suicide by jumping in the metropolitan area in question did not change but the pattern of suicides by jumping in the city changed significantly with more suicides from the bridge in question and fewer at other sites.

The last link doesn't work, since a cookie is involved, but I googled it, and that abstract, like the one above, just deals with jumping data, not overall suicide rates. I'm looking for the papers with the raw meat i.e. total number of suicide attempts, so many successful, measures instituted, total number of suicide attempts afterwards, and so on..
posted by Gyan at 2:21 AM on February 25, 2006


Suicide is one of those issues that people think they can get "solved" in their head—that they can boil down to some little slogan or something—and then that gives them the right to bray loudly about it.

Gyan, where's your evidence? Have any even abstracts or quotes from experts that back your view? If you're a researcher in the field let us know, otherwise maybe consider that your talking out of your ass.
posted by fleacircus at 2:52 AM on February 25, 2006


you're talking, *slaps self*
posted by fleacircus at 2:53 AM on February 25, 2006


I'm thinking maybe some tourism interests in the area could sponsor the printing and distribution costs for a small, color tri-fold flyer, copies of which could be placed along the bridge, maybe at the phone stations:

"So You Want To Jump"

Did you know that:

-Not everybody that jumps dies?
-Death by jumping usually results
from multiple broken ribs, shredding
of internal organs, and drowning?
(Death is usually painful and not
instantaneous.)
-Many jumpers hit the pilings, not the
water.
-Not all bodies are recovered before
sharks and other predators have attacked
them?

[Various pictures of broken, mangled bodies
of jumpers, and funerals.]

Brought to you as a public service of the
Alameda County Coroners Office. We're the
people who fish out the bodies of people
who do this, and we'd rather not be fishing for you.


I think a surprising number of people who plan jumps from high structures assume that death will be quick and painless, when it is, in fact, often not. Deterrence by information might be a statistically significant tactic.
posted by paulsc at 3:10 AM on February 25, 2006


Just to add to the anecdotes, I can confirm from personal experience that making it more difficult to commit suicide can prevent future attempts at suicide.
posted by moonbiter at 4:07 AM on February 25, 2006


Does no one but keswick and me care that this is the equivalent of a quadruple post (the poster missed this previous discussion)? Or is talking about jumping off bridges so vital we must do it every few months?
posted by languagehat at 6:31 AM on February 25, 2006


You can stop suicide as certain as you can stop the rain. The only effective deterrent to suicide seems to be love. Fences are the opposite of love.
posted by any major dude at 7:06 AM on February 25, 2006


The local beauty spot of Beachy Head, on the South coast UK, is the cliff of choice for many suicides. The husband of one such lady founded a charity called the Maggie Lane Trust where volunteers are rostered to intervene when they identify someone who looks to be in need. I has worked well so far.
Would the people who value aesthetics over human life want to put in the effort along with perhaps some suicide charity group?
posted by Wilder at 7:29 AM on February 25, 2006 [1 favorite]


Or is talking about jumping off bridges so vital we must do it every few months?

Sure, or at least, I'm not bothered by this post. Suicide isn't talked about nearly enough; there are still a great number of misconceptions surrounding it.
posted by Drexen at 7:42 AM on February 25, 2006


My response had less to do with any of your points and more to do with you being a heartless asshole in making them
Fair enough. You're entitled to your opinion, and I honestly couldn't care less about the opinion of a person who stoops to insults anyway.
posted by kaemaril at 8:00 AM on February 25, 2006


dobbs : kaemaril, I can't believe you think not wanting to be inconvenienced by another's pain is "perfectly understandable". You know, if you're ever on a subway train or platform and you're late for work or a date or whatever because someone was "dumb enough" to leap into the tracks... ? Instead of cursing said jumper's lack of suicidal ettiquette, maybe you should use that time to learn some fucking humility.
Meantime, the rest of the platform who are similarly "inconvenienced" by the railway leaper can reflect on the nature of mortality while similarly reflecting on how the poor tortured soul could have avoided being smashed into tiny bits by an oncoming train by choosing a less messy and exhibitionist way of ending their tortured life.

The man who is late for his appointment with his oncologist can give thanks that at least it wasn't him.

The parents whose children witness a human being becoming a bloody smear can explain about how the poor man (or woman) was a tortured soul when their children wake up screaming at night.

The rail staff/police who have the sad and unenviable task of trying to track down the body parts can think sadly that they wish they didn't have to do this particular job.

The train driver who has just been forced into becoming a killer can reflect on the short and tortured nature of life as he's undergoing therapy.

The family of the leaper, who have to have a closed casket funeral because they still haven't found the head, can curse me for being so inconsiderate as to have little empathy for their poor, departed, loved one.

Meanwhile I, who have simultaneously become late for the funeral of my mother while witnessing the most shockingly violent thing I've ever seen in my life, can curse myself for thinking more of myself than the tormented soul who has chosen to end his life in a huge "fuck you" to every living being on the planet instead of the quiet, dignified way that terminally ill people around the planet wish they could legally chose.
posted by kaemaril at 8:20 AM on February 25, 2006


Since we're going on the assumption that any barrier would be ugly, I'd just like to point out that despite what id girl said, the general consensus (see the Wikipedia entry, for example) seems to be that the Luminous Veil suicide barrier on the Bloor Viaduct in Toronto is actually surprisingly attractive.

"...its Luminous Veil has been regarded as a great contribution to structural art, as it is not only functional, but aesthetically pleasing as well, as it received the 1999 Canadian Architect Award of Excellence."

Furthermore, in the scene where is was used in Resident Evil, it was NOT a prison bridge; it was a bridge out of town where citizens were prevented from crossing. In other words, it was used as an interesting city landmark (like Nathan Phillips Square, also used in the movie), NOT because it looked like a "prison bridge" (whatever that would be).
posted by kevinsp8 at 8:55 AM on February 25, 2006


Well, the "luminous veil" (from the images I've been able to google, like this site) certainly isn't hideous, but I wouldn't want to describe it as aesthetically pleasing. The rods are actually very nice, but the support struts? Ick. Maybe if they'd had been in the design from the beginning they could have been integrated better.
posted by kaemaril at 9:16 AM on February 25, 2006


Wait...so there is some evidence that barriers work?
Hell, sure, build it. Get Michael Graves to slap something together- it doesn't need to be a chain-link fence or anything. And as for the cost- the government routinely spends millions on totally worthless shit, I think that something like this beats out the cost/benefit analysis.
And I'm certain that someone could build something without compromising the view- actually, why don't we just get some proposals and see how they might work?
posted by 235w103 at 9:46 AM on February 25, 2006


25w103 : see link in my above post ... it's a fairly detailed article on the luminous veil. See for yourself whether or not it compromises the view. Though, to be fair, the viaduct it's built on isn't exactly providing a scenic view anyway ...
posted by kaemaril at 10:27 AM on February 25, 2006


I love it how a human being committing suicide is considered by some people as some sort of a nuisance, a waste of one's all-important time. I mean, they also stain subway tracks with blood and gore, those unhelpful suicidal fucks. we probably should lobby for new laws, having their relatives paying for the cleanup. not to mention, how many people could have already gotten home, to watch some well-deserved TV, instead of having one's commuting schedule disrupted by some selfish suicidal asshole, right?
and grieving mothers are just annoying, seriously. who the hell do they think they are?

bah.


Some very reasonable people decide that life is not worth living. People who wish to stop them are IMO more loathesome than even drug warriors.

even more loathsome -- well, no, not "more loathsome", the right word here is "dumber" -- are those who, quoting the Cliffs Notes from a French (well, pied noir) guy's book, choose to ignore the fact that very often suicide is not exactly a rational choice but the consequence of a medical condition like, say, bipolar disorder, or clinical depression. maybe reading some Cliffs Notes for that would be useful, one of these days.


Does no one but keswick and me care that this is the equivalent of a quadruple post

apparently, yes. but keep clicking that "flag as double post" thingie, maybe Matt will delete this thread.
posted by matteo at 10:46 AM on February 25, 2006


The design of civil engineering is never purely about aesthetics. And the beauty of a thing is informed greatly by its meaning (e.g. people we love or windmills.) So if I see the golden gate with a barrier I think its appearance may be improved by a visual signifier of the effort to end its link with so much pain. We can't make a perfect thing we- can only try to do what we think is right.

In fewer words, look at the barrier, think about what it's for & then decide whether it's ugly or not.
posted by Wood at 11:01 AM on February 25, 2006


In fragile psychological states small things can make a difference. Like a bridge with barriers to prevent death accidental OR NOT regardless in itself says people are watching out for you. As someone said, upon jumping they realized they wanted to live. How nice would it be to fall into a safety net. Now we can't prevent them everywhere, but the golden gate is not an unsolvable engineering problem.
posted by uni verse at 11:04 AM on February 25, 2006


(On preview -- or what Wood said was tied in and better put -- quite appropriate.)
posted by uni verse at 11:05 AM on February 25, 2006


What's striking to me is that a lot of people opposed to the suicide barriers are nasty, rude, and sometimes downright vicious in their comments and reasoning (not just here in this thread, either). I worked at Jonathan Zablotny's school, and knew him, and was involved with student and parent activities that were geared towards getting barriers put up. No one at the school was opposed (and believe me, I would have heard about it if they were). Jonathan's best friend wrote a very touching (but also very unsentimental) letter to city hall describing why he thinks the barriers should exist: as a big "think about it" sign to stop the people who jumped while just having a really bad day, which Jonathan clearly did.

Does this mean people that are directly touched by this sort of thing automatically take that side? I don't know. In fact, I personally can see some of the arguments against the barriers, even some made here - they make sense. But what I can't understand is lashing out at a mother or at the people who are killing themselves ("Hey, lady, why should things of beauty be spoiled just because your son was dumb enough to jump off a bridge instead of swallowing something lethal but painless?" and "I'm sorry your son jumped lady, but it's not the bridges fault" etc). It's quite saddening.
posted by ORthey at 11:18 AM on February 25, 2006


Based on this thread, methinks a select few of you feel people in pain shouldn't really bother the rest of us. Based on that view, you also no doubt feel you've been horribly "inconvenienced" ever since your whining mouths became detached from your mothers' breasts. I mean, whatever happened to that nice safe warm convenient environment for you?

Life's realities must grate continually.

So one supposes it's understandable you feel completely entitled to being shielded from the often painful realities of life. Suicide barriers? They ruin our view.

God help you if you ever need. Helping is so inconvenient for the rest of us, after all. I mean, we might be late or something. It might upset us. Our view might not be as pleasant as it could be.

The problem doesn't lie in the view. The fucking problem is with your vision.

Folks, take care of one another, especially those poor in spirit, and those around us who are not thinking clearly (we all fall into those categories at times). Blaming the ill is neither helpful nor caring. Reasonable barriers to impulsive acts by those who suffer are helpful and caring, and are no real inconvenience to us. Love magnifies all our views, and our vision.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:20 AM on February 25, 2006


fleacircus : "Gyan, where's your evidence? Have any even abstracts or quotes from experts that back your view? If you're a researcher in the field let us know, otherwise maybe consider that your talking out of your ass."

Nowhere have I contradicted the opposing camp or presented my "view". I just have called out those claiming 'barriers reduce overall suicides' by asking for the actual research, not assertions that amount to "some research shows..".
posted by Gyan at 11:23 AM on February 25, 2006


*deep inhale*

kaemaril: This thread caught me at a bad moment last night and I could've voiced my thoughts on the comments without singling you out or resorting to name-calling. For that, I'll apologize.
posted by kryptondog at 12:09 PM on February 25, 2006


posted by fold_and_mutilate Reasonable barriers to impulsive acts by those who suffer are helpful and caring, and are no real inconvenience to us. Love magnifies all our views, and our vision.

Well, the bridge already has a reasonable barrier.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:39 PM on February 25, 2006


This seems to overlook the fact that people who want to kill themselves, will find a way to kill themselves. Maybe we should outlaw guns as well, I imagine the number of suicides by handguns is more than 100x more than the number of bridge jumpers.

Well, actually...

"Prop. H prohibits handgun possession by San Francisco residents and bans the sale, manufacture and distribution of firearms and ammunition within city limits. It exempts law enforcement officers and others who need guns for professional purposes."

58% of SF voters voter for Prop. H. (I wasn't one of them.)
posted by smallerdemon at 12:43 PM on February 25, 2006


hey, thanks for the link, idontlike words.

Sadly, this is one of the subjects that MetaFilter doesn't seem to do well.
posted by Vidiot at 2:05 PM on February 25, 2006


The Golden Gate bridge was built in 1937 and ONLY 1,300 people have jumped from it? Doesn't sound like much of a problem to me.

Further, won't people just find some other way to off themselves? After all it's not like these nets would be secert.
posted by wfrgms at 2:07 PM on February 25, 2006


Gyan, One well documented example of how a change in the access to a popular means of commiting suicide happened in the UK when the country switched from coke gas to natural gas. As a result the number of suicides by gas dropped dramatically and was all but eliminated by 1975. Curiously the number of suicides by other means during this time didn't increase either.[link]

A long term study specific to the Golden Gate Bridge asked, “Will a person who is prevented from suicide in one location inexorably tend to attempt and commit suicide elsewhere?” the conclusion reached was, nope since "the findings confirm previous observations that suicidal behavior is crisis-oriented and acute in nature" Only 5 to 7 percent of the people who were a part of the study eventually commited suicide.
posted by squeak at 2:55 PM on February 25, 2006


I would definitely go to SF to bungee jump off the Golden Gate. I've already gone there to see it, and that wasn't worth repeating.
posted by Clamwacker at 3:01 PM on February 25, 2006


Thanks for that link, squeak. I wish I'd found it at the start.

However, this view seems entirely ingrained, no matter how many times it's called into question. People just keep showing up here and saying:

won't people just find some other way to off themselves?


Sigh. We've got 3 studies suggesting no. None linked that assert otherwise.
posted by scarabic at 5:01 PM on February 25, 2006


Orthey : But what I can't understand is lashing out at a mother or at the people who are killing themselves ("Hey, lady, why should things of beauty be spoiled just because your son was dumb enough to jump off a bridge instead of swallowing something lethal but painless?")

I'm not lashing out at a mother, I'm reacting to a mother lashing out at me ("what kind of monster would stand there before me and tell me that aesthetics are more important than my son's life?") Or, put another way, "Hey, man who disagrees with me, when did you stop beating your wife?"

If she wants to couch her argument in archly emotional terms that characterises people that disagree with her as monsters I reserve the right to be less than sympathetic toward her.
posted by kaemaril at 5:10 PM on February 25, 2006


well, she's advocating for a position, and change is often effected by those who have an emotional investment in a cause...and that there is are emotional terms to her argument doesn't negate the legitimacy of the question 'what kind of person puts aesthetics ahead of concern for human life?'...i mean, i'm pro-abortion but i don't pretend that someone who is against it on a similar emotional basis, in the same terms, does not have a legitimate argument...i just don't take it so personally...

and again with the 'should things of beauty be spoiled' outcry...were we to wake up tomorrow with a barrier in place on golden gate bridge, i would bet that few of those who make such argument would even notice the change...
posted by troybob at 6:55 PM on February 25, 2006


There's nothing wrong with being emotionally invested, certainly.

But actually, "What kind of person puts aesthetics ahead of concern for human life?" is purely a rhetorical question. She's not expecting anyone to say "Me". It's a tactic, and a pretty lousy one at that designed purely to villify the person with the contradictory position, rendering debate worthless.
posted by kaemaril at 7:23 PM on February 25, 2006


a part of debate is that each side attempts to recast the argument in its own terms (e.g., pro-life, as if the opposition is anti-life) to undermine the legitimacy of the other argument...her statement doesn't make the debate worthless--it merely throws out an argument in subjective terms (human life vs. aesthetics), which the opposition can debate directly (sometimes aesthetics should come first) or can itself reframe (human life would not actually be saved, or it is not a legitimate function of society to thwart the suicidal urge)...it seems to me less a vilification than a challenge...for me, it's a side of the argument i respond to, as it leaves me asking 'compared to the potential benefits of a suicide barrier, what is it that opponents are sacrificing by allowing it that would make them so vehement in their position?'
posted by troybob at 8:00 PM on February 25, 2006


While we're at it, we should install suicide barriers around the Grand Canyon.
posted by reflection at 8:19 PM on February 25, 2006


troybob: Out of interest, would you consider "When did you stop beating your wife?" a legitimate question?
posted by kaemaril at 8:59 PM on February 25, 2006


well, that's a bit unfair...i was born georgia white trash, and though i moved away years ago, on balance i would still have to say the question would be legitimate more often than not...

...otherwise, the two questions don't have the parallels you imagine them to...and playing in that park rather skirts the fact that you haven't made a compelling counterargument to what she is saying as much as you've callously minimized her suffering...your statement would indicate that you're leaning in the 'aesthetics first' direction but it doesn't say why the scales should be so tipped...

...i think there are legitimate cost-vs-benefit arguments, and those are being debated...but i personally find the aesthetic argument to be the weakest, considering that golden gate bridge is a man-made structure to begin with and has many elements put into place for purposes of utility or safety that do not serve and might diminish its aesthetic value--one might argue that the existing railings are aesthetically unpleasing, or that the cars themselves detract from the beauty of the structure; in fact, the presence of people walking on the bridge doesn't do a lot for it, and pedestrian traffic isn't necessary from a transportation standpoint...
posted by troybob at 10:04 PM on February 25, 2006


The problem doesn't lie in the view. The fucking problem is with your vision.

This is why I <3 foldy.
posted by beth at 10:28 PM on February 25, 2006


I disagree. I think that the questions have exactly the parallels I'm "imagining" them to have. She's portraying anyone who dares disagree with her as a monster.

This is not the basis for a rational debate, anymore than you'd expect a dialogue on abortion to end well if the pro-life side starts off with "So, how much fun did you have murdering babies today?"

What I object to is her assertion that anyone who dares suggest that, perhaps, aesthetics play a part in a world-famous tourist spot like the Golden Gate bridge and thus this should be taken into account before spending a very large quantity of money is somehow a monster for not immediately capitulating to her desire to have a barrier installed and hang the aesthetics.

If you can get an aesthetically pleasing barrier, please, go to it. If, on the other hand, the best you can come up with is a "safe eyesore" then I'd venture to suggest further study should be made before installing it on a world famous tourist spot. This, however, makes me (and the architects, city council members, et cetera) a monster for "putting aesthetics before human life".
posted by kaemaril at 10:58 PM on February 25, 2006


Folks, take care of one another, especially those poor in spirit, and those around us who are not thinking clearly (we all fall into those categories at times). Blaming the ill is neither helpful nor caring. Reasonable barriers to impulsive acts by those who suffer are helpful and caring, and are no real inconvenience to us. Love magnifies all our views, and our vision.

Wow, I'm a little surprised actually to see foldy jump in in support of the "culture of life", which I usually associate with hyperventilating 'Pubs, who are ready to circumvent every law rather than see the beating heart of a fetus terminated or a human vegetable disconnected from its brainless life function.

Phrases such as "those. . . not thinking clearly" and "blaming the ill" have built in assumptions that it isn't reasonable - in fact that it's insane - for any person to want to end their life. What's the basis for this assumption? Why isn't helping people cleanly and painlessly take their own life, when they make that decision for themselves, the compassionate stance? It seems like an arrogant solipsism to me that says that other people don't have the right, intelligence, or unique self-knowledge to weigh the costs and benefits of their own existence. Certainly I would rather be dead than experience the sickly, shabby, lonely, ignorant lives that a majority of human souls, past and present, have been blessed to lead. If they feel differently about their own lives, good on them, their right to live is then worth strong defense. But if they feel the same, it seems a fair choice for them alone to make. And society should support and facilitate the choices adult individuals make for themselves.

So rather than condescendingly child-proofing our cities and landscapes, so that the suicidal act on their choice (more messily and painfully, mind you) at home instead, why not let a doctor help them?
posted by dgaicun at 12:43 AM on February 26, 2006


If people are concerned about people jumping off the bridge, why not organize a patrol? Surely you could find 50 or 100 people concerned enough about suicidal people to spend a few hours a week walking back and forth across the bridge and talking to potential jumpers.
posted by kindall at 1:16 AM on February 26, 2006


She's portraying anyone who dares disagree with her as a monster.

Wow, a grieving mother isn't permitted hyperbole? The exaggerated language of a strongly held, emotional position? Speaking about her own personal hell, she's expected to have precision of language so as to not offend someone?

Surely you could find 50 or 100 people concerned enough about suicidal people to spend a few hours a week walking back and forth across the bridge and talking to potential jumpers.

You know, I bet in many cases it wouldnt even take that much. Put someone at either end of the pedestrian walkway who looked at everyone who crossed with a smile and a warm "Hi, how are you today?" "Having a good day today?" "Beautiful day, isn't it?" Engage people, reconnect them to the world of the living, take them out of their solitude a little, and see what happens.

On a personal note, those of you who've been out there and come back from that place and have shared that with us, I for one am glad that you're here with us, and feel enriched by your presence.
posted by Dreama at 5:22 AM on February 26, 2006


Hyperbole? Sure. Portraying those who oppose her as inhuman scum? Not so much.

RE: "patrols" ... seems the authorities already have patrols on the bridge, at least according to two of the articles I read.
posted by kaemaril at 6:16 AM on February 26, 2006


Put someone at either end of the pedestrian walkway who looked at everyone who crossed with a smile

From the New Yorker article:
"I went to this guy's apartment afterward with the assistant medical examiner," he told me. "The guy was in his thirties, lived alone, pretty bare apartment. He'd written a note and left it on his bureau. It said, 'I'm going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.'"
posted by kirkaracha at 6:55 AM on February 26, 2006


Maybe we could also force feed people who try to starve themselves to death.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:01 PM on February 26, 2006


As one who is in the present reasonably enjoys living and experiencing an intellectually and emotionally rich life, I am never-the-less absolutely committed to end my life at my convenience, at a time and by means of my own choosing. So I second dgaicun saying, "Phrases such as "those. . . not thinking clearly" and "blaming the ill" have built in assumptions that it isn't reasonable - in fact that it's insane - for any person to want to end their life. What's the basis for this assumption? ...It seems like an arrogant solipsism to me that says that other people don't have the right, intelligence, or unique self-knowledge to weigh the costs and benefits of their own existence..." and would only add, I hope not too arrogantly, that I neither need society's approval nor doctors' help. My remaining concern, given the choice of a sudden end or a process of protracted dehumanization, is how to cause the least amount of pain to those who care about me, and I care about.
posted by semmi at 3:01 PM on February 26, 2006


I'm not lashing out at a mother, I'm reacting to a mother lashing out at me ("what kind of monster would stand there before me and tell me that aesthetics are more important than my son's life?") Or, put another way, "Hey, man who disagrees with me, when did you stop beating your wife?"

Kaemaril: You have got to be kidding me. Did you read the part about how her son killed himself? Of course she's going to be emotional. Of course she's going to have trouble understanding why anyone would oppose this - to her, right now, it makes complete sense. Do you think she's being completely rational? No. Of course not. She's devastated. And now you're the victim? I respect your right to disagree, of course - but do it with a little class. Telling someone (that you pointedly called 'lady') that her son killed himself because he was dumb is staggeringly fucked up.

Have your opinion, by all means. But have some fucking compassion, too, and express yourself intelligently. There are a lot of good reasons to NOT put up barriers and I feel like we can explain them without being vicious.
posted by ORthey at 11:04 PM on February 26, 2006


ORthey: Bravo. I wish I could have said it half as well. I looked away from this thread several days ago, being unable to stomach reading further. Your comment showed up in my "last 10 posted" thing today and I was glad to read it.
posted by onegreeneye at 2:28 PM on March 3, 2006


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