Monday, July 14, 2008

What's Next? Plastic Knives?

San Francisco's Suicide Bridge Dilemma

The debate is heating up in San Francisco over how to prevent suicides from the Golden Gate Bridge. Since the Bridge opened in 1937, 1,250 people have ended it all there, 39 of them just last year. This latest round of controversy was sparked by a report from the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway & Transportation District, which offered up ways to tackle the problem. The possibilities? Install a steel net 20 feet below the Bridge's sidewalk. Change out the four-foot pedestrian railings to 12-foot ones. The cost? $50 million.

According to this story from the National Post, a good deal of San Franciscans favor the report's sixth option: do nothing. It may sound callous in some respects, but I happen to agree with this group.

The fact is the $50 million could be put to much better use in funding mental health programs to render suicide unthinkable in the first place. Otherwise, we simply eliminate a method to complete the act. If someone is desperate enough to take the plunge from the Golden Gate Bridge, I can assure you they would find another method if this modern marvel wasn't an option.
If we begin making the means of a suicide plan off limits, where do we stop? Background checks and 10-day waiting periods before purchasing cutlery? Yes, yes, an extreme example, I know. But $50 million is an extreme amount of money to throw at a problem when it's already too late.
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