Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bridge Suicide Statistics

Recently, I gave a talk at the Huntington about Golden Gate Bridge suicide. I just want to share the statistics I compiled for the presentation. The data is as accurate as I could manage using a variety of sources, as of May 2009.

I don't think the large number of suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge is the result of any special fame or beauty--the vast majority of victims are local, just as they are on other structures. Rather, it reflects the unusually long time that has elapsed since the bridge earned a reputation for suicide. That, in my opinion, is to a large degree due to the administration of the bridge. The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District is too narrowly focused and its leaders too insulated from pressure or accountability. The problem of suicide falls outside what they consider to be legitimate bridge district concerns. If the bridge were operated by a general-purpose government, as are most such structures, consideration of the larger consequences of thousands of suicides for the region and its residents--not just for the immediate interests of the agency--would come into play.

UPDATE: The All-America bridge in Ohio has developed a reputation as a suicide magnet, with 28 deaths since 1997. Local officials are talking about a net. Here's an article in the New York Times. I love the quote from the mayor of Akron: “I think that for a community to have, and I’m going to use this word, an icon that represents suicide, and then not to take some action, do something — we’d really look like an uncaring community." The problem with the Golden Gate bridge district is that it's set up to operate the bridge, based on a corporate, business model. Concern for the image of a community isn't part of the program.

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