Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Marin County (CA) pushes to prevent suicide deaths.

You know about an object that has contributed to over 1300 deaths during the past 70 years and have had a number of folks say that it is “fixable” so that most of those deaths will not occur there in the future. What do you do? Obfuscate and don’t talk about it, because it would involve saying a taboo word. Don’t talk about it because it would involve talking about suicide. It would involve admitting that death by suicide occurs there and we all know that the “law of contagion” would lead to increased numbers of deaths by suicide there.

Finally, the Medical Examiner of Marin County is pushing for something to be done:
"I'm tired of the carnage," he said. "The public needs to know these needless deaths continue at an alarming rate."
He also wants officials to erect a suicide barrier to prevent future deaths (on the Golden Gate Bridge).
"I believe a higher railing would stop a lot of the suicide attempts," Holmes said. "A lot of people go to the bridge really in the moment, rather than carrying through any well-thought-out effort to end their lives. Of course, you're not going to stop all of them. I'm not that idealistic."
Along the pedestrian walkway visited by millions of tourists each year, only a 4-foot-high railing separates visitors from the turbulent bay waters below.
"If that rail was just 6 foot tall, it would delete 75% of the suicides," he said. "Because now it is just too easy to kill yourself there. You don't even have to climb. You can just lean over the rail and go."

In office for “decades”, he has now taken a stand. He released data on the suicide deaths that have occurred off of the bridge during the last 10 years and is taking a leadership role in preventing them in the future. I applaud his speaking out about suicide and his efforts to prevent them.

Suicide should not be cloaked in taboo and stigma. Suicide happens more than most folks realize (57 deaths by suicide in our county last year). Certainly not all suicides are preventable, but we owe it to folks to try to prevent as many as we can. It is not an easy road to prevention, but we most definitely should go after those things that present an “easier” remedy and remediate them. Our Suicide Prevention Task Force keeps looking for those sorts of issues locally, as well as the tougher targets and solutions. Step one is getting folks more comfortable with talking about suicide, lessening the taboo and stigma.


Anonymous said...

Interesting article on suicides from the bridge appeared in the New Yorker magazine a few years ago:
"Jumpers," by Tad Friend

"Survivors often regret their decision in midair, if not before. Ken Baldwin and Kevin Hines both say they hurdled over the railing, afraid that if they stood on the chord they might lose their courage. Baldwin was twenty-eight and severely depressed on the August day in 1985 when he told his wife not to expect him home till late. 'I wanted to disappear,' he said. 'So the Golden Gate was the spot. I’d heard that the water just sweeps you under.' On the bridge, Baldwin counted to ten and stayed frozen. He counted to ten again, then vaulted over. 'I still see my hands coming off the railing,' he said. As he crossed the chord in flight, Baldwin recalls, 'I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable—except for having just jumped.'”

Anonymous said...

The rails on the Golden Gate Bridge are too low you can lean
over and fall. The police and Bridge authorities admit that they
stop at least one person each week from killing themselves.

But each week someone is successful and dies a horrible death.

Conservatively that means that 100 people a year attempt death
with one tragically dying each week leaving behind devastation

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem
98% of those stopped never try again

The Bridge Directors have voted…but only to study death at the Bridge

Help stop the carnage the rails on the Golden Gate have to be raised now !

Anonymous said...

In more ways then one, I've lived in the shadow of the Bridge for years. I have a disease (bipolar disorder) that from time to time makes me think about ending my life. I've never gotten that far, but it's something that never leaves either. In those moments, I find myself obsessed with the Bridge, it's history, and the others who have lost their life there.

I often think about the tourists I see crossing the Bridge on my way home to Marin after work. Would they really be there, snapping there pictures, if they truly understood the carnage the Bridge has wrought over the years it's been standing?

As PKH said, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. The Golden Gate Bridge District should be held criminally accountable for their ongoing refusal to do something about this problem. I applaud the Marin County coroner for his outspokenness on this issue.