While in Brazil last month, I found out via BBC News that the suicide barrier finally received approval from the Golden Gate Bridge board. In the next three years, $76 million will be spent to fund this barrier. It took over 1,600 lives to get this approval to finally happen, and just last year, we saw 46 people jump off this bridge, including Ed. Then this past week, I read that the New York Port Authority is planning to spend $50 million to build a fence to prevent potential suicides on the George Washington Bridge, which connects New York and New Jersey. Last year, this bridge saw 16 people jump off and fall to their deaths.
The thing about the George Washington Bridge is that it’s not one of those iconic tourist spots the way the Golden Gate Bridge is. If you jump off this bridge, it’s very likely that no one will ever witness you jump and fall to your death, and even more likely that your body may never even be recovered. A friend of mine told me that her friend’s friend committed suicide by jumping off the GW bridge. She wasn’t discovered until a week or two later after an exhaustive search to find her when she was reported missing. I already was aggravated when I knew that it took the U.S. Coast Guard an hour to get to Ed. How would I feel if it took them a week or two?
Chris was the one who actually saw the headline in his BBC app while we were in Brazil and showed me his phone. When I read the headline, I felt numb and even slightly defeated. It’s this weird feeling of relief because I know this will save future lives, but a deep sense of hurt came over me knowing that it came too late for Ed.
I’m painfully aware of mental illness and have been for as long as I can remember, and I am also aware that a suicide barrier on any bridge will not 100% prevent suicide from happening. I don’t need some idiot commenting on these articles about the “waste of government dollars” going toward these public projects… because apparently, people who are suicidal need to take care of themselves and take responsibility for their own lives. Why don’t we ask blind people to find their way home? Most of the world’s major bridges have barriers, so it never made sense why arguably the most iconic bridge in the world in my home city didn’t have one. We can’t 100% prevent anything bad from happening. But what we can do is not make it so easy for people to decide to end their lives. We can prevent people from being scarred for life for witnessing people jump to their deaths. We can also stop blaming the victims by saying that if they are determined to die, then they will just find a way to die no matter what we do. We have to help people who need help, give them positive options, take away the ease of access to a quick and relatively painless 4-5-second death, and not make them feel even more helpless and like death is their only option.