Suicide and the Golden Gate Bridge

Having just finished watching The Bridge (a 2006 documentary chronicling the stories of those who committed suicide at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge throughout 2004), I came online in search of Jumpersthe article that inspired the film with its comprehensive look at suicide at the bridge.

Both the documentary and the article pose some difficult questions but are also packed full of facts and figures about the bridge, those who work there, and those who have and haven’t survived the fall. If you have a passing interest in the phenomenon that is suicide, they’re both worth your time.

Not-so-fun fact: The Golden Gate Bridge is the most popular place to commit suicide in the United States with an average of one suicide every 15 days. Depending on your source, the bridge is not—contrary to popular belief—the most popular place to commit suicide in the world: that ‘honour’ goes to Aokigahara, Japan (‘The Sea of Trees’ at the base of Mount Fuji).



5 responses to “Suicide and the Golden Gate Bridge”

  1. I thought the arguments in the film about making the Golden Gate Bridge less suicide friendly by putting up barriers was interesting. City officials don’t want to because it is a key tourist attraction and they worry that fencing, etc will interfere with the view and with the aesthetic appeal of the bridge. Though I don’t agree with the city placing tourism over human lives, I do suspect that if someone is serious enough about killing themselves that they jump off the Golden Gate Bridge, a little fencing likely won’t stop them. Great, sad documentary.

  2. Exactly what I was thinking: if someone is serious enough to jump off the bridge, erecting a barrier is extremely unlikely to prevent them doing so. I feel that a barrier will merely be a temporary hindrance.

    Some may counter that argument by pointing out how the erection of The Luminous Veil on Toronto’s Prince Edward Viaduct has successfully prevented suicides at what was one of the world’s most popular suicide destinations.

    But surely this just shifts the problem? While it’s been shown that the erection of suicide barriers on bridges doesn’t cause an increase of suicides at other bridges, it is not known whether overall suicide rates drop for the city in question.

    The documentary and article suggest that people choose the Golden Gate Bridge because it is a way of glamorising and immortalising their death. If they can’t do it there, will they move along to the equally as deadly, but lacklustre, Bay Bridge or choose another method? That’s the real question.

  3. Paul

    Ah yes, Aokigahara literally the ‘Sea of Trees’.

    If you stay alone overnight at a hot spa in the more remote regions of rual Japan, some proprietors will regard you as a potential suicide risk, but none more so than near Aokigahara. The 18 square mile forest covers a flat lake delta region in an area that is covered in snow from late October to March.

    Every winter, literally dozens of people take the long walk into the remote wooded areas to quietly freeze. Their bodies are not found under the deep snow until spring. A number of books have been written and films made about the place which many locals believe has a malevolant paranormal air.

    Not believing in any of that nonsense, I personally I think it’s a place of remarkable natural beauty, although I do stick to the path.

    Unlike the Golden Gate Bridge though, tourists don’t go to the ‘Sea of Trees’.

  4. Fascinating. Thanks Paul.

    I’m hopefully going to visit my brother in Tokyo this coming August and your words have inspired me to look into travel opportunities to Aokigahara.

    I think I’ll also stick to the pathways though.

  5. I am a psychologist working in Japan and I would say that it not simply the case that only that, as the current worldwide recession has its effect on Japan too, counselors here only now believe the increase is because of unemployment and the general economic crisis.” Mental Health professionals in Japan have long known that the reason for the unnecessarily high suicide rate in Japan is due to unemployment, bankruptcies, and the increasing levels of stress on businessmen and other salaried workers who have suffered enormous hardship in Japan since the bursting of the stock market bubble here that peaked around 1997. Until that year Japan had an annual suicide of rate figures between 22,000 and 24,000 each year. Following the bursting of the stock market and the long term economic downturn that has followed here since the suicide rate in 1998 increased by around 25% and since 1998 the number of people killing themselves each year in Japan has consistently remained well over 30,000 each and every year to the present day. The current worldwide recession is of course impacting Japan too, so unless very proactive and well funded local and nation wide suicide prevention programs and initiatives are immediately it is very difficult to foresee the governments previously stated intention to reduce the suicide rate to around 23,000 by the year 2016 being achievable. On the contrary the numbers, and the human suffering and the depression and misery that the people who become part of these numbers, have to endure may well stay at the current levels that have persistently been the case here for the last ten years. It could even get worse unless more is done to prevent this terrible loss of life. During these last ten years of relentl the English media and press someone goes through the files and does a story on the so-called ‘suicide forest’ or ‘internet suicide clubs’ without focusing on the bigger picture. Economic hardship, bankruptcies and unemployment have been the main cause of suicide in Japan over the last 10 years, as the well detailed reports behind the suicide rate numbers that have been issued every year until now by the National Police Agency in Japan show only to clearly if any journalist is prepared to learn Japanese or get a bilingual researcher to do the research to get to the real heart of the tragic story of the long term and unnecessarily high suicide rate problem in Japan.

    I would also like to suggest that as many Japanese and people have very high reading skills in English that any articles dealing with suicide in Japan could usefully provide contact details for hotlines and support services for people who are depressed and feeling suicidal.

    Useful telephone number for Japanese residents of Japan who speak Japanese and are feeling depressed or suicidal:

    Inochi no Denwa (Lifeline Telephone Service):
    Japan: 0120-738-556
    Tokyo: 3264 4343

    Andrew Grimes
    Tokyo Counseling Services