Potential suicide barrier for Golden Gate Bridge still under political, financial debate

Potential suicide barrier for Golden Gate Bridge still under political, financial debate
Golden Gate Bridge suicide
According to San Francisco Police Department patrol officers, routine sweeps of the walkway are made hourly across the Golden Gate Bridge to ensure the safety of visiting tourists and to keep an eye out for potential suicide attempts. Photo by Nick Moone.

Though many are familiar with the landmark, few people know that the Golden Gate bridge has been the final destination of almost 2,000 people who ended their lives after grappling with mental illness.

“The degree of attempts is rather astonishing,” said John Bateson, executive director of the Contra Costa Crisis Center. “There are 25 to 40 every year and that doesn’t account for the bodies that are never found.”

The impact of falling over 250 feet into a body of water does not always kill an individual instantly. Though the impact can cause extensive internal injuries, victims of such a fall can still swim around for several minutes before drowning or dying of internal bleeding according to former Marin County Coroner Ken Holmes.

There has been talk of installing a barrier in the form of a net to dissuade people from jumping, but action has been hindered by questions of aesthetics, finances, and effectiveness, according to Bateson.

Bateson has been compiling information about the suicides for years to publish in a comprehensive book this coming February.

The Golden Gate Bridge is currently the only bridge in California not under the control of the state legislature, and any measures to construct a preventative suicide barrier are required to go through the Golden Gate Bridge District.

“The board policy is that funding will not come from our toll revenues,” said Mary Currie, Bridge District spokeswoman. “Some of the various area public advocates, with our support, are trying to get legislation changes to include federal funding for suicide barrier projects so the project will be eligible for possible future federal funding.”

Currie was not available to respond when asked how the Bridge District was supporting these public advocates.