SAN FRANCISCO – After unanimously approving the construction of an outer net meant to catch jumpers last week, the Golden Gate Bridge Board revealed further reforms meant to prevent people from using the bridge as a springboard for suicide.
The site is the most used suicide location in the United States, the second most used spot in the world, and many experts believe these reforms are long overdue.
The first measure to be implemented consists of a variety of signs near the bridge that give would-be jumpers statistics demonstrating how the quality of life has been steadily improving over the past 200 years.
One of the signs reminds potential suicide victims that the life expectancy of an American male in 1901 was 47.6 years, but now it’s 77.4 years. “#GoodToBeAlive” reads one of the signs.
The signs are set to cost $2 million, which although pricey, is a fraction of the $76 million required to fund the 20-foot-wide steel safety net.
In addition, bridge visitors will be met by a man with a computer who shows them the Facebook profiles of people who could never quite get it together since high school.
“We find that comparing your own life to those of people way worse off can have powerful anti-depressant effects and is something almost everyone does on Facebook anyway,” said Stanford psychologist Susie Hornblauer. “Think about it. You’re on the edge, about to make the worst decision of your life, and suddenly a man with a computer reminds you of that guy who drunkenly drove into the Border’s books and lost his license for three years. Here’s a guy who’s 38, doing coke at your hometown’s dive bar and cleaning puke in the McDonald’s ball pit for a living. You start thinking ‘alright maybe things aren’t that bad.’ ”
All in all, there are 33 additional measures meant to put a final cap on the more than 1,600 suicides that have occurred at the bridge since it opened in 1937. These include: a giant tub of benzodiazepines that people can just grab like it’s Halloween, importing Chris Rock to do a hilarious ledge set once a week, Skyping in a quadruple amputee burn victim who would trade lives with practically anyone else in a heartbeat, and just flat out giving each would-be jumper $100,000.
One of the most popular preemptive measures is a man who stands near the bridge and constructs balloon hats and animals for people contemplating suicide.
“There have been studies that suggest a good 15 percent of suicidal individuals will rethink their decisions to take their own lives if wearing a balloon hat or holding a balloon animal,” explained Board President Herman Martinez, while clutching onto a balloon giraffe.
Some however, aren’t convinced any of this is worth ruining the bridge’s natural, eye-catching state.
“Leave the bridge alone,” one commenter posted on the transportation district’s public website. “It’s not the bridge’s fault people choose to commit suicide there.”
Another wrote, “The net looks ugly and it will probably encourage more people to jump! Who doesn’t see a 1.7-mile-long net and immediately think of jumping on it?”
Still others think the bridge and the rest of the measures are just expensive ways to mask a deeper problem.
“The point is there are people out there who are devastated by depression, by anxiety, by the unavoidable shittiness of life…people who, you know, people who you care about who feel completely and utterly alone” said Glenn McDermott, a San Francisco resident. “These are real people that just wish someone would reach out and prove to them the world isn’t such a terrifyingly lonely place. It’s amazing how far a genuine ‘How are you?’ can go in making someone feel wanted.
A man in California once wrote a note and left it on his desk. It read “I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I won’t jump.” He walked to the bridge and he took his life that day.
“What does it say about how we treat each other, how we relate to one another, if people feel like this is the only option?” asked McDermott. “Yeah a safety net will help, but I gotta think it’s not fixing what’s really wrong here.”