Reality Check: Will Golden Gate Bridge Suicide Barrier Reduce Number of Jumping Suicides in Bay Area?

If the bridge isn’t an option, Stanford professor says, some people "will not take their own life"

A suicide barrier will be built at the Golden Gate Bridge, after years of debate, and research shows that the barrier won't only reduce the number of suicides at the bridge, it will likely result in an overall drop in the number of jumping suicides throughout the Bay Area.

“We’ve learned two really important things about suicide prevention in the last 30 years," explained Keith Humphreys, a Stanford Professor of Psychiatry and mental health expert. "The first one is that some people have very particular ways that they wish to take their lives. It’s not that they want to end their lives in general, they want to end it at the Golden Gate Bridge. If that option is not available, they will not take their own life.”

Humphreys explained the other big finding from suicide prevention research is that the act of suicide is often “impulsive.” So, if the urge can't be satisfied at a particular site, the desire may go away.

Humphreys’ theory is supported by an analysis of all of the research done on suicide barriers around the world. A study by a University of Melbourne, Australia professor found that after barriers were installed, there was an 86 percent decrease in the number of suicides at the barrier site. And, overall, there was a net decrease in the number of jumping suicides in surrounding areas.

This is welcome news for supporters of the Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier, the installation of which has been delayed by political debate for years. Barrier advocates argued that it was necessary because of the alarming number of people who were taking their lives by leaping off of the bridge, while opponents maintained a barrier would disrupt the historic nature and aesthetic aspects of the landmark.

This past summer, the Golden Gate Bridge officials finally approved the designs and funding to build a $76 million suicide barrier. Construction is scheduled to be completed by 2018.

SUICIDE PREVENTION: If you know someone who needs help, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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