The Golden Gate Bridge, since its opening in 1937, has become an iconic piece of architecture recognized around the world as a symbol of San Francisco and California. But the Golden Gate Bridge has also become known as something far more bleak — the most popular suicide spot in the world.
The exact number of suicides off the bridge is unknown, as many deaths were not witnessed, but since its opening over 1,200 suicides have been reported. Thirty-eight jumps were reported in 2007 alone.
On Oct. 10, the Golden Gate Transportation District’s board of directors voted 14-1 in favor of building a barrier net underneath the bridge in order to prevent future suicides. The stainless-steel net will be placed 20 feet below the bridge and will extend 20 feet on both sides, making it very difficult if not impossible to make the jump.
After years of talks and debates, the Golden Gate Transportation District’s board of directors deserves a round of applause for finally implementing the much-needed barrier.
The idea of a safety net is better than other proposed suicide prevention apparatuses, such as extending the current four-foot railing or building a wall blockade along the edges of the bridge.
The net is the most cost-effective solution and the landmark’s aesthetic beauty will not be lost, as the net will be painted the same orange color as the current bridge structure.
While the safety net is expected to cost between $40 million and $50 million, the money will be well spent if the barrier saves lives. And how can we put a price on life?
Opponents argue that a barrier on the bridge will not prevent future suicides and that people who wish to take their lives will do so in other ways.
But according to the Psychiatric Foundation of Northern California (PFNC), suicides off the Golden Gate Bridge are often impulsive. If someone were having a bad day and ended up walking toward the bridge, it would be easy to just give up on life and take the jump, even without a past history of suicidal thoughts.
So if a barrier were placed below the bridge, it’s unlikely that people would make the effort to go elsewhere to take their lives.
In a 1978 study, PFNC revealed that 95 percent of the people who attempted suicide off the Golden Gate Bridge did not try to kill themselves in other ways after being restrained.
Other icons like the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower have had success with suicide barriers, as there have been fewer suicides in those areas after the barriers were constructed.
The Golden Gate Bridge remains a national landmark that currently makes the act of suicide easy with such a low railing. Many individuals travel to the bridge from all over the world just to kill themselves because of the icon’s popularity and fame. If a barrier were in place, it would force suicidal victims to reconsider the act of ending their lives.
It’s time for San Francisco and Marin County to take responsibility for the suicides, and now that the board of directors have taken the first step of action, it’s important for them to follow through with their plans.
The barrier now requires an environmental review and the funding still needs to be allocated. And while there is no set timeline for the project, The Golden Gate Suicide Barrier Coalition estimates that it will be completed within the next several years.
Even with the barrier, we cannot ignore the issues of depression that cause many to consider jumping in the first place. We must continue reaching out to those affected by thoughts of suicide, making sure the crisis counseling phones on the bridge are functioning and that mental health facilities have financial support.
Now that the battle for a barrier has ended, let’s celebrate the victory of the vote on Oct. 10. There’s now hope for the mental health experts and family members of suicide victims, who have pushed so hard for this barrier.