Today marks exactly seven months since my sweet Ed jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. And I have also flown home again to the home he will never return to. I didn’t even think of this when I booked this flight.
I figured it’s been enough time for me to stop being ignorant to Golden Gate Bridge suicides, so today I spent some time researching it. Since the iconic landmark of San Francisco was first unveiled in 1937, over 1,600 people have chosen the Golden Gate Bridge as the place from which they will jump to their deaths. It’s considered the suicide bridge of the world with the highest number of suicides globally. It’s fail-safe compared to hanging, pill overdosing, and even shooting. Four seconds of falling at a speed of up to 75MPH down 220 feet, and it’s all over.
After 1995, an official count of jumps was stopped for unclear reasons (maybe it’s the city’s way of just turning their heads the other way). But it’s estimated that approximately 24 people jump to their deaths from this site every year. Another 80-100 are pulled off the bridge annually by big-hearted volunteers who volunteer their time as suicide watchers, watching out for people who “look” like they may jump. They approach them, talk to them, coax them into not ending their lives, and in some cases, even have to wrestle them off the railing and bridge. I wish this happened to Ed. I can already imagine he would have been so quick to do it that no one could have reacted in time.
Ironically, in August 2013, the month after my brother jumped, a record high 10 people jumped off – to put that in perspective, that’s one person every three days. No one survived that month, as the survival rate is about 2%, assuming you hit the water feet first at a certain angle, and that the U.S. Coast Guard gets to you before you either drown or die from hypothermia. That water temperature is not forgiving.
I found one happy story about a guy who jumped off the bridge and somehow managed to survive. His legs gave out, but somehow, a sea lion came out of nowhere and helped push him to the surface of the water. He went on to be a mental health care worker and created a suicide prevention program that he travels around the country teaching now.
There have been plans since the late 90’s to construct a proper suicide barrier under the bridge, as apparently San Francisco and California in general are so broke that they don’t care about the lives that are lost here. A number of news stories I’ve read have said that this is the only “suicide bridge” in the world that has absolutely no barrier constructed. About $5 million have been raised, but the total cost of this project is approximately $65 million. And as one painfully clear suicide note left on the bridge said, “Why do you make it so easy?” I felt chills reading that.
A lot of critics have said, what’s the purpose of creating a suicide barrier, anyway? When people are determined to end their lives and you take away one means, they will find another means. Well, that’s a really sensitive thing for you to say. It’s like saying, “that person’s already determined to kill himself anyway, so nothing you do will help! Don’t bother helping!” Thanks. I actually got told that quite a number of times last July and August, thank you very much. You’ve really got to love all those assholes out there who don’t intend to be assholes but really just have no sense of empathy or of being a real human being with real feelings.
A number of research studies have found that usually when a person is suicidal, they tend to fixate on one particular way to end his life. Yes, they run through a number of methods, but they finalize one method and make that their goal. In 1978, a study was done by a UC Berkeley researcher that actually tracked 515 people who were restrained from jumping between 1937 and 1971. A few of these potential jumpers went on to kill themselves, but 94 percent were either alive years later or had died of natural causes – NOT suicide.
Someone commented on one of these articles and complained that if a barrier were built, it would take away from the beauty that everyone knows to be the Golden Gate Bridge, and it wouldn’t be as beautiful anymore. This idiot obviously is short-sighted and has no idea what it is like to lose someone to suicide.