The suicidal attraction of the Golden Gate Bridge

I’ve just found this morbidly fascinating article from a 2003 edition of The New Yorker that discusses the attraction of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to people who are suicidal.

It’s full of interesting snippets, like the fact that suicidal people tend to ignore the nearby and equally fatal Bay Bridge in favour of its more famous and more attractive cousin.

It also has quotes from some of the very few people who have ever jumped off the bridge and survived, and describes exactly what impact such a jump has on the body.

The article also touches on the debates over the erection of a suicide barrier on the landmark (it was finally decided in 2008 to put one in place) and the people-based suicide prevention methods.

It also has this lovely snippet about one of the police patrolmen, who has a wonderfully gentle way of talking to suicidal people:

Kevin Briggs, a friendly, sandy-haired motorcycle patrolman, has a knack for spotting jumpers and talking them back from the edge; he has coaxed in more than two hundred potential jumpers without losing one over the side. He won the Highway Patrol’s Marin County Uniformed Employee of the Year Award last year.

Briggs told me that he starts talking to a potential jumper by asking, “How are you feeling today?‚” Then, “What’s your plan for tomorrow?‚” If the person doesn’t have a plan, Briggs says, “Well, let’s make one. If it doesn’t work out, you can always come back here later.”

Apparently the article was the inspiration for the 2006 documentary film The Bridge which covered similar territory.

Link to New Yorker article ‘Jumpers’.

2 Comments

  1. pkh
    Posted April 26, 2009 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Vaughan
    I should let you know that
    1. the reason that no one jumps from the Bay Bridge is that there is
    very little if any access.
    2. Because the Golden Gate has unfettered access and low rails
    ( less that 4 feet – it attracts about four people a week trying to
    kill themselves
    3. Just about once every ten days someone is successful
    4. About 3,000 have died at the Golden Gate – the Bridge
    authorities will tell you oh no much less – but when you ask
    they will admit that only if a body is found is is counted.
    I hasten to add that the tides and sealife are plentiful
    5. For seventy five years the Bridge has ignored all pleas to fix
    the rails or reduce access.
    So it is ironic that less than a mile a way a Bridge stands with no suicides while the Golden Gate is the suicide capital of the World

  2. fanatixx
    Posted April 27, 2009 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    I can really recommend “the Bridge” in all its morbid glory. It really gave me a new insight into the different mechanisms involved in suicidal people, and the interviews with the relatives of the jumpers are interesting.


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