This 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.