Safety Barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge? It’s About Time!

imagesThis week in the New York Times, Carol Pogash reported that the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District is nearing agreement to build a safety net on the Golden Gate Bridge. It seems that finally, the public health hazard of the iconic symbol of San Francisco, will finally have what other previously popular suicide jumping destinations such as the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower have long had, a safety barrier.

This was a long time coming.

Safety barriers prevent suicides. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention last year published a report that outlined the benefits — bridge barriers eliminate suicides at suicide “hot-spots”; there was virtually no increase in suicides at other nearby locations when barriers were added, and a reduction in copy-cat suicides that is correlated with less media coverage. The report also noted that these barriers were found to be a particularly useful intervention for young men. More recent studies support these claims.

Are there really fewer suicides when the means of suicide are restricted? Studies have shown that indeed they are. Restriction of means for suicide was found to be effective, especially for popular, lethal, and available means (e.g. the Golden Gate Bridge) in one recent study published in The Lancet. Researcher Jane Pirkis and colleagues from the University of Melbourne published a study last year that was a meta-analysis of several studies of structural interventions at suicide hotspots. They found that these barriers decreased suicide rates in these particular locales.

I hope that the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District follow through on what is expected to happen. That they will reverse previous objections and policies against building a barrier and they will do the right thing to save lives.

It’s about time.

About monashattell

Mona Shattell is Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development in the College of Science and Health, and Professor in the School of Nursing at DePaul University. The College of Science and Health at DePaul University is comprised of 8 departments (health sciences, psychology, STEM studies, biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, and mathematics), 1 school (nursing), and 4 centers (STEM Center, Quantitative Reasoning Center, Center for Family and Community Services, and the Center for Community Research). The college currently has 150 full-time faculty members, 2700 undergraduate students and 725 graduate students, and $15 million in research funding. In her role as Associate Dean for Research, Dr. Shattell promotes research in all departments, schools, and centers in the college; she enhances the culture and capacity of the college to support scientific inquiry, supports and mentors tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty, and promotes student research. In addition to her position as Associate Dean, she also serves as the PI of mental health services research teams and as board member for several community non-profit mental health advocacy organizations. She is Associate Editor of Advances in Nursing Science and Issues in Mental Health Nursing, a regular blogger for the Huffington Post, and the author of more than 100 journal articles and book chapters. She has participated in several fellowship programs: she is a former Public Voices Fellow with the OpEd Project, which is a media fellowship program that develops thought leaders from traditionally underrepresented groups; she participated in the Sigma Theta Tau International Mentored Leadership Development Program, and post-doctoral K30 Clinical Research Training Program through NHLBI. She is active in a number of professional organizations and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing. She is also a member of the American Nurses Association, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association, the Southern Nursing Research Society, Midwest Nursing Research Society, Sigma Theta Tau International, and the International Academy of Nursing Editors. She serves on numerous community boards of mental health-related service and advocacy organizations. Prior to joining the faculty at DePaul University, she was tenured Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Assistant Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and Lecturer at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She received a PhD in nursing from the University of Tennessee Knoxville, a Master of Science degree in nursing from Syracuse University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, also from Syracuse University.
This entry was posted in LGBT Health, Mental Health, Public Policy, Suicide and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Safety Barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge? It’s About Time!

  1. Mickey says:

    I drove over the Golden Gate Bridge last week with three staff members from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention…it’s hard to imagine what the barrier would look like. We also discussed that there is no way to know how many of those suicides are LGBT people, because death certificates collect no information about sexual orientation or gender identity. A barrier is one small piece of the multi-pronged interventions needed to end the unacceptably high suicide rate in our community.

  2. monashattell says:

    I agree with you Mickey. A safety barrier alone is not enough. We need earlier intervention, prevention, treatment, support, and we need to address broader societal issues such as joblessness, inadequate housing, poverty, violence, stigma, and discrimination.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  3. I have my psychiatric nursing students watch The Bridge documentary every semester. Although there are numerous ethical questions surrounding the movie, it documents people who jump off of the bridge and then follows up with a “psychological autopsy” through interviews with surviving family and friends. Although it is not necessarily related to LGBTQ issues, I recommend the movie to those who are interested in the subject matter of suicide. There are numerous websites that allow free viewing of the documentary — simply do an Internet search for it.

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