I’m totally fine with building fences along the Aurora Bridge, but can we cut out the nonsense that it’s going to save the lives of the suicidal? Fencing off the Aurora Bridge will not save those lives for the same reason that fencing off the Mexican border will not stop illegal immigration.
Normally, Lee is a wellspring of wisdom, but he could not be more wrong. Suicide barriers and border fences serve altogether different functions, and the forces at play in each case have little in common.
When individuals decide to cross the United States’ southern border, they’re reacting to economic conditions. They know that in America they can earn in a day what they can earn in a month in their home countries. There are plenty of low wage jobs in America that will not be filled by Americas. (Or, more accurately, there are plenty of jobs Americans won’t do because the jobs pay so little.) Lee’s right about the U.S./Mexico fence: it’s poorly thought-out, and flies in the face of economic realities. That said…
Why build a suicide barrier — won’t they just go somewhere else?
No. This is a common misconception:
* Two suicide bridges in Washington D.C., the Taft and the Duke Ellington, are located a block away from each other. When officials erected a barrier on one bridge, suicides on the other bridge did not increase.
* Dr. Richard Seiden, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, studied 515 individuals who were prevented from jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge. Ninety four percent of them went on to live normal and productive lives — a mere six percent attempted suicide again.
* The Memorial Bridge in Augusta, Maine was the sight of 14 suicides before officials erected a safety fence there. After installing the fence, suicides at the bridge fell to zero — and the suicide rate in the entire state did not increase.
We can reduce the number of suicides by installing a fence on the Aurora Bridge. We should, and not only for the benefit of the individuals who will be dissuaded from taking their own lives:
The neighborhood beneath the bridge used to be docks and warehouses, and the suicides went largely unnoticed. But during the technology boom of the past two decades, it morphed into a trendy area full of office buildings, shops and restaurants, and the bodies began to fall where people could see them.
“They end up in our parking lot,” said Katie Scharer, one of Edwards’ co-workers at Cutter & Buck, a sportswear company based in the Adobe complex. “Nobody’s ever totally used to it.”
Grief counselors regularly go to Cutter & Buck, paying a visit as recently as a month ago.
I can’t imagine how awful it must be to work in that area, knowing that at any time someone could fall to their death. If a fence can successfully prevent people from killing themselves, then it’s worth building.
UPDATE [Lee]: I’ve responded in the comments and will leave it at that as I’ll be signed off for the rest of the day, but I want to make it clear that I actually do support the fence for the fact that the jumpers are a huge concern for the businesses and residences below.