Shreve asks: Why don't they go to their own neighborhood and jump?
July 24, 2005 11:54 PM   Subscribe

The Suicide Bridge. Sitting in the sun, waiting for her ride, Babcock recounts the story of one Thanksgiving. As she placed the turkey on the dinner table, she heard the sirens. Before she could stop him, her teenage son, Larry, ran outside to find the body. When he returned, he refused to eat.
"The guy's head was splattered all over the place," she says. "It was a younger fella that had jumped off the bridge. It shook us all up -- someone that young. He was only 20 or 21."

The All America Bridge in Akron, Ohio is built over a lower-class neighborhood; unfortunately, it's also a popular suicide spot. Often times bodies will land in people's yards, in business' parking-lots, and even through the roof of a building. A sad, disturbing article about people who have grown used to the sight of people dying on their property.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me (29 comments total)
Interesting article, Reverend. Google Map (satellite) of the All-American Bridge--check out the shadow offset to get an idea of the height of that thing.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:32 AM on July 25, 2005

"Why don't they go to their own neighborhood and jump?" Shreve asks.

NJIMBY politics!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:35 AM on July 25, 2005

(the shadow in the Google Maps link wouldn't tell you anything about the height of the bridge unless you knew the angle of incidence of the sun's rays at the time of the photograph. The link helped me to visualise the bridge, though, thanks.)
posted by cadastral at 12:49 AM on July 25, 2005

Other bridges with the "Suicide Bridge" sobriquet include this one in Pasadena and this one in China.
posted by fandango_matt at 12:57 AM on July 25, 2005

Top idea with the link, Civil_Disobedient.

From what I can garner, the high part of the bridge doesn't go above many houses, and the ones it does seem like mighty fine pieces of real estate (except for the bridge right above them!).
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:14 AM on July 25, 2005

From fandango_matt's first link:

The "Suicide Bridge" underwent a $27 million renovation in 1993, which included the installation of suicide prevention rails and spikes.

Suicide prevention spikes. Don't sound too helpful, do they?! I wonder if this was an early, unsuccessful prototype?! (warning: graphic pics)
posted by uncanny hengeman at 1:31 AM on July 25, 2005

Maybe the spikes were just a fun feature, entirely separate from the suicide prevention rails. If I had a bridge, I know I would.
Probably swinging axes too.
posted by NinjaPirate at 2:30 AM on July 25, 2005

In Montreal, the Jacques Cartier Bridge is the location of more suicides than any other bridge in the world. It's one of the few island bridges here with a pedestrian walkway. To deal with the problem they've put an inward curving barrier along the entire pediestrian walkway and it has had a dramatic effect in decreasing the number of people who jump. Sadly, this has also meant an increase of suicide jumps in front of metro cars.
posted by furtive at 2:43 AM on July 25, 2005

In Montreal, the Jacques Cartier Bridge is the location of more suicides than any other bridge in the world.

The link you mentioned now adds:

...besides the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

I'm afraid we can't beat those Californian jumpers wikipedia editors, sorry.
posted by kika at 2:54 AM on July 25, 2005

The Aurora Bridge is Seattle's #1 suicide spot. A friend of mine used to live in one of the houseboats underneath it (yep, the same ones in Sleepless in Seattle). He said over the years he's heard several loud splashes that turned out to be suicides, though he never witnessed one. Of which I'm sure he's glad.
posted by zardoz at 2:55 AM on July 25, 2005

kika: You are correct. I should have said ...the Jacques Cartier Bridge was the location...
posted by furtive at 3:07 AM on July 25, 2005

... and then there's Nick, my roomie for two years and close friend for six who was found in the secluded parking lot of an abandoned country club two weeks ago, four days after releasing a tank of helium into his teal green '92 Cavalier.

I'm in some strange peace with this because he planned it so thoroughly... I mean, he really seemed to want to do this. He told me seven months ago to know that if it did happen, there was no other choice. I want to believe him. I bitterly fight off anyone who tells me otherwise, that "he had other choices." He made the choice he wanted to make, whether or not we agree. I'll be damned if I'm gonna tell him what he shoulda done with his life now in his death. I guess I don't take a standard view of suicide. Maybe it's just some weird coping thing.

RIP, bro...
posted by trinarian at 3:12 AM on July 25, 2005

But what if you change your mind half way down? You could always try to be one of the lucky ones.
posted by DrDoberman at 3:23 AM on July 25, 2005

Early this year, filmmaker Eric Steele revealed that he had spent all of last year filming suicide jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge. Partially as a result of that revelation, bridge officials are now seriously looking into erecting suicide barriers for the first time in the bridge's history.
posted by trip and a half at 5:23 AM on July 25, 2005

cadastral: “(the shadow in the Google Maps link wouldn’t tell you anythingabout the height of the bridge unless you knew the angle of incidenceof the sun’s rays at the time of the photograph.
Actually, if you compare it with the shadows of the houses, and assume that they’re not more than 3 floors tall, you can get at lest a feeling of what the bridge’s height is.
posted by signal at 6:38 AM on July 25, 2005

The Google maps link is certainly interesting. The neighborhood is much different than what I was expecting from the description in the article -- I figured it would be an urban area. Instead I'm left wondering how the jumpers manage to even get near the houses considering how far away from the bridge they are and that there is a stand of trees in between.
posted by smackfu at 7:01 AM on July 25, 2005

The Aurora Bridge is Seattle's #1 suicide spot.

I had once thought that to be the stuff of urban legend when I first moved to Seattle in 1993, but it is all too true.
posted by psmealey at 7:24 AM on July 25, 2005

A newspaper article about a tall bridge with no picture of the bridge... go figure. Photo of the bridge.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:53 AM on July 25, 2005

In the Vancouver area, it seems to be the Patullo bridge.

This is the site of the suicide that bothered me most and that disturbance continues to this day.
posted by Kickstart70 at 9:57 AM on July 25, 2005

Those who would say "no other option" need to read the tail end of this article. It gives more emphasis to those who must endure bodies falling on their houses and places of work and whose children grow up seeing smashed skulls and brains on a regular basis. One of the interviewees even described it as an "attack." It boggles my mind that both the city and the mental hospital were described as having as much apathy as they were.
posted by artifarce at 10:21 AM on July 25, 2005

trinarian, here's a good thought for you, and your friend.

This post surprises me - I grew up in Akron, and never knew this was a problem. There was a very high bridge near Boston Mills ski area where some TV personality's wife jumped - that's the only infamous site I remember.
posted by tizzie at 10:32 AM on July 25, 2005

Toronto's equivalent is the Bloor Street Viaduct, which claimed at one point to have the second-largest number of jumpers in the world after the Golden Gate.

In 2003, the Luminous Veil was completed. It's a suicide-prevention measure that was the subject of a fair amount of debate while it was being built. As someone who walks across the Viaduct fairly regularly, I have to say that while it may not be great artwork, it doesn't really impact the view from the bridge either. And while a really determined person may find a way to use the bridge to kill themselves, I think the device will stop most of the suicides - or drive them somewhere else.

This article has pictures of the help-line phones that are at either end of the bridge as a last attempt to counsel would-be jumpers.

Finally: I haven't heard any rumours to the effect that jumping from other bridges has become more popular since the installation of the Veil, or that more people are jumping in front of subway cars, but that isn't the sort of thing that makes front-page news.
posted by flipper at 11:03 AM on July 25, 2005

I was astonished that the mental health community was so apathetic about erecting a barrier. The claim that putting up a barrier merely redirects would-be suicides to go elsewhere is crap. From The New Yorker article on the Golden Gate:
Although this belief makes intuitive sense, it is demonstrably untrue. Dr. Seiden’s study, “Where Are They Now?,” published in 1978, followed up on five hundred and fifteen people who were prevented from attempting suicide at the bridge between 1937 and 1971. After, on average, more than twenty-six years, ninety-four per cent of the would-be suicides were either still alive or had died of natural causes.

“The findings confirm previous observations that suicidal behavior is crisis-oriented and acute in nature,” Seiden concluded; if you can get a suicidal person through his crisis—Seiden put the high-risk period at ninety days—chances are extremely good that he won’t kill himself later.
posted by Aknaton at 11:14 AM on July 25, 2005

Here in the Tampa Bay area there is the beautiful Skyway Bridge that some jumpers prefer. There is even a website with some jumper stats and you can even place your own guess as to when the next one might be.
posted by CJB at 11:26 AM on July 25, 2005

"[...] suicidal behavior is crisis-oriented and acute in nature,' Seiden concluded; if you can get a suicidal person through his crisis—Seiden put the high-risk period at ninety days—chances are extremely good that he won’t kill himself later."

Very true, judging by my own experience -- but a suicide barrier is not the same thing as crisis management and a ninety-day follow-up. Which might explain the apathy you report from "the mental health community" regarding bridge barriers. People who are intent on killing themselves do not necessarily chose just one method and stick to it. In fact, the records of such things are full of the cases of people who became impatient with one romantic method and tried one more efficient when the first failed.

In other words... sure, you're going to save a few people with barriers... but it's hardly surprising that the people who are directly concerned with overall statistics are going to be less interested in the limited goal of decreasing bridge suicides.
posted by sighmoan at 11:56 AM on July 25, 2005

The Stranger had a fascinating article on the Aurora Bridge in April 2002; one letter to the editor called the article, "a disservice to Seattle's suicide community."
posted by kirkaracha at 12:11 PM on July 25, 2005

April 2000. I regret the error.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:12 PM on July 25, 2005

I grew up near Niagara Falls and went to Cornell. Both were popular destinations for suicides. As a child, I saw a man give his wallet to a another man and easily climb the very low barrier and was gone.

I could never go back and enjoy the beauty without thinking that maybe a higher fence would've made him think about it a little longer.

At Cornell,there are two deep gorges on either side of campus, the suspension bridge with the "reputation" has a barrier, the others do not.
I witnessed a student who kept crossing one of those bridges in a trance, back and forth, in an ever decreasing pattern and then just froze--about to jump.(?). I called Public Safety--who got there in time.
He later said he would've done it, and last I heard he is fine.

My own sister's attempts were just cries for pshycological help, and she, too, is now fine. If there had been a jump attempt on her part. I still shudder.
Put up the barriers.
posted by Duck_Lips at 12:12 PM on July 25, 2005

Featured Personal: dark_matter --

Celebrity I resemble most: "I've been told Marilyn Manson."
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:55 PM on July 25, 2005

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