Golden Gate Bridge: Funding For Barriers To Prevent Suicide Jumps Approved

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most recognizable and majestic landmarks in the world. It is also one of the deadliest.

Second in the world only to China’s Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge as the #1 suicide stepping off point, the Golden Gate Bridge has long been the unfortunate first choice for suicide jumpers in the United States.

That macabre Golden Gate Bridge fact is one step closer to change however, with the Golden Gate Bridge Board of Directors approving $76 million dollars to fund steel netting that would extend 20 feet out from both sides of the Golden Gate, and stretch the bridge’s 1.7 mile span, reports CNN.

The unanimous vote approving the project’s funding happened Friday, with the federal government reportedly prepared to pony up $50 million and the rest coming from state and local accounts.

Along with its majesty, The Golden Gate Bridge has long been the melancholic destination of suicide jumpers since it first opened in 1937. According to the Bridge Rail Foundation, a long time advocate to prevent suicides from the bridge, 46 people leapt to their deaths off the Golden Gate just last year, and almost 1,600 have made the jump since its 1937 opening.

“People come from all over the world to go onto this bridge,” said Sergeant Kevin Briggs, a former patrolman on the the Golden Gate. “Not just to sight-see, but also to take their life.”

Golden Gate suicide jump prevention sign
The Golden Gate Bridge has long been a top destination for suicide jumpers. Safety nets have also long been considered and, with funding approved, may soon be installed.

Whether or not to put up some type of barrier to prevent, or at least greatly hinder, suicide jumps from the Golden Gate Bridge has been a source of contention in the Bay Area for decades. In fact, the Bridge Rail Foundation says the California Highway Patrol first asked Golden Gate Bridge authorities to install fencing in 1939.

Golden Gate's youngest tragedy
In 1945, 5 year-old Marilyn DeMont was tragically taken over the railing, and off the Golden Gate Bridge, by her father, unwillingly becoming the bridge’s youngest suicide victim.

Those against a suicide prevention barrier say it will detract from the bridge’s beauty and those wishing to end their lives will just find another means to do so. Mental health and other advocates for a barrier to be installed on the bridge disagree, however, and point to the success of such barriers elsewhere:

“Where nets have been erected as suicide barriers they’ve proven to be 100% effective thus far,” according to Denis Mulligan, CEO and general manager of the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District, which. “Suicidal people have stopped jumping at those locations.”

The Clifton Suspension Bridge in England and the Duke Ellington Bridge in Washington are two examples cited where the installation of suicide barriers has directly resulted in much lower suicide rates.

“Apparently, suicidal individuals don’t want to hurt themselves, they want to die,” said Mulligan. “So where nets have been erected, people stop jumping.”

One man who is quite supportive of the barriers is Kevin Berthia, who in 2005 was unemployed and in debt due to medical bills which lead to him standing outside the Golden Gate railing in 2005, ready to jump into the bay.

“I was hurting a lot,” said Berthia. “I was dealing with a lot of issues, and I felt like I was dealing with them by myself.”

Fortunately, he was approached by the aforementioned Sergeant Briggs who was able to persuade him not to jump. According to CNN, over the span of his 23 year career patrolling the Golden Gate Bridge, Sergeant Briggs successfully talked over 200 people back from the edge. For two others, he wasn’t able to do so.

“They’re ready to go. The pain is great,” said Briggs. “They see no hope.”

Hopefully the installation of suicide barriers on the Golden Gate Bridge will ultimately save the lives of some who would otherwise be dead, as well as their families the pain.

And hopefully those fearing the barriers will be eyesores, will be pleasantly surprised when, after their installation, the Golden Gate Bridge looks as lovely as ever.

Images via Wikipedia