Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Golden Gate Bridge Has Become A Target

The Golden Gate Bridge is a national treasure. It has also become the most used place in the United States for people to end their lives! There is a large controversy brewing about installing a net on both sides to stop people from jumping to their deaths. 

I found it interesting why some people did not want the net up because they thought it took away from the appearance of the bridge. As if that is a reason to stop people from jumping! Sometimes, I really do not understand people. I guess everyone has their own opinion, but is that a real reason to try and stop using the bridge to kill yourself?
According to this article in the New York Times, there were a record forty-six suicides in 2013 from people jumping off the bridge! You may read the article by clicking here or click on this URL: 

The issue of mental health is discussed in the article and needs to be discussed more on a local, state and national level. When we hear of another school, mall or business place shooting, the issue is brought up about the shooter, but is quickly dropped as the twenty-four hour news cycle moves on to another topic. The problem is people with metal health issues do not lose those issues in that twenty-four hour cycle.

Across the country, we are seeing funding being cut for programming, mental health clinics are being closed, often times insurance policies do not cover mental health issues, and the stigmatization of mental health problems is still rampant in our society.

As soldiers are been coming back oftentimes after multiple tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan, we see a preponderance of PTSD and other mental health issues related to their time not only in their active duty serving overseas, but in the way they are being treated by the Veterans Administration. The numbers of veterans and suicides and/or attempts is far above the national average. In fact, it is at an epidemic rate.

According to the Veterans Affairs Department, it is not just the active-duty military who face this problem. The report states at least twenty-two veterans commit suicide each day! This adds up to more than two thousand veterans killing themselves so far this year alone. 

According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, in 2011, (the most recent year they have the data on) suicide ranks tenth amongst death in the United States. That percentage goes up even higher when one considers only teenagers. I have not even addressed that issue yet.

Several years ago, after visiting a school one day, a young student asked if she could talk to me. We went in to a classroom and she told me she had tried to kill her self twenty-seven times! As she was telling me this, she rolled up the sleeves on her arms and there were a number of scars on each forearm, one right after another.

I asked her why she was doing it. She told me, "God was telling her to kill herself."

I asked her if she really wanted to die? She said, "No." She also told me no one paid any attention to her and that was a way of getting attention.

When I asked her if she really didn't want to die and God was telling her she needed to, I said, "What would happen if you really did commit suicide?" You should have seen the look on her face! That thought and never really crossed her mind. She was just looking for attention!

Several years ago, I read a report that stated teenagers try to kill themselves fifty-five times every hour. Every day they succeed eighteen times. Which begs the question, "If you try to kill yourself and do not accomplish your stated goal, is that a successful or unsuccessful suicide attempt?" I have often contemplated that question and had many conversations about it.

I do not know what those numbers are today because every site I researched lumps the group into the 15-24 age group. I looked at several sites and did a number of different queries in doing the research for this post. The numbers are staggering no matter how you look at it! Feel free to do your own Google research for just about any phrase concerning suicide and you will be amazed at how many people, the age groups, the reasoning, the success rates, the recidivism, trying to understand and watch for characteristics of someone who is considering suicide you will find.

The more time I spend doing this post, the more depressing it gets. I started out at the Golden Gate Bridge and found myself digging deeper and deeper into a very complicated subject. I believe it is time to quit.

If you read the article from the New York Times on the Golden Gate Bridge, you saw this photograph. When I first lived in Berkeley and again in San Bruno, I had occasion to drive over the bridge a number of times and it is breathtaking. I could also see it from the dining room when I lived in Cowell Residence Program and watch the fog roll in over the bay and Alcatraz Island. That was fun for an eighteen-year-old in the middle of winter fresh from Minnesota.

A friend of mine gave me a photograph of the bridge from a similar angle and I had it hanging in my house. I like the bridge so much and I like this picture; so, I am going to post it here:

Click on it to make it larger:

I look forward to your comments.




Kim Ross said...

Mike, you are right on. Rather than being depressed we need to use this data to advocate for funding for mental health resources. As a country we cannot continue to ignore the very real needs of our citizens. Keep speaking out!

Colleen said...

Great post, Mike! Mental health issues are one of the most pressing problems of out time. One of the most glaring facts that sticks out in the reading I have done is
The age of our victims is getting younger and younger. What a sad commentary this is on the problem.

Jeanne said...

Excellent article. I absolutely love this site. Thanks!

Jeff said...

Here's more evidence that I'm a mean old man; If they put up nets on the bridge to catch people trying to kill themselves, those people will just figure out a better way to finish themselves off. So, skip the nets! Sure, they are mentally ill but mentally ill people look like you and me until they "Go off". I've gotta think there isn't a way to talk those people off the ledge unless they self identify to a professional.

Earl Hipp said...

For teens, girls attempt suicide 4 times more than boys, but boys are more successful at it. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claim suicide is the third leading cause of death, behind accidents and homicide, for people aged 15 to 24. Even more troubling is the fact that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for children between the ages of 10 and 14. Read about it, and what you can do in my blog post at:

Mike Patrick said...


Thanks for your comment. The statistics you cited and the website you pointed me to were some of the numbers I found in doing my research for this post. Thanks for the reminder.

These are troubling numbers and I'm not sure what to do about it. I just know something needs to be done to help these young people in their quest to find answers to their problems. Certainly, not enough is being done today.


Frank said...

Hi, Mike!

You are absolutely correct. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, but if you are looking at expenditures, you cannot see savings directly - only what you actually spent. On that subject, I am reminded that trickle down economics has never worked, but don't tax the rich because they will provide fewer jobs! Ha! I think we should all tell the unemployed they need to retrain to build and maintain Maseratis and yachts!

Oh, do I sound cynical? Sorry! I am preaching to the choir!
So, to Mr. Boehner - Tax me to staff the VA and the mental health clinics properly, and train the personnel needed to do that! Mississippi has a 7.2% unemployment rate. Oh, what we could really do to help that!