Niagara Gazette

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June 9, 2013

Portlanders push for barrier at 'Suicide Bridge'


Niagara Gazette — The group must also overcome the skepticism of those who believe that people who are determined to kill themselves will find a way. There is no shortage of spans in this city known as "Bridgetown," and within recent weeks people have jumped to their deaths from the eighth floor of a homeless shelter and the rooftop bar of a downtown hotel.

"I don't particularly feel that throwing money at an issue necessarily solves it, and altering the bridge because of a few people who want to end their life seems pointless," said Les Anderson, a magician who is among several who've voiced their opposition on the group's Facebook page. "You're not going to stop someone who wants to end their own life."

At least 17 people have killed themselves at the Vista Bridge in the past decade, although there is no reliable estimate for how many people have committed suicide there since it opened in 1926.

Signs placed on the bridge last September promote a suicide-prevention hotline. Three callers have specifically referenced the sign when phoning for help, said David Westbrook of the nonprofit Lines for Life.

Several studies have found a reduction or elimination in suicides from bridges with barriers. For example, the number of suicides off the Duke Ellington Bridge in Washington, D.C., went from an average of four a year before a fence was installed in 1986 to one in the five years following, with no corresponding increase at another nearby span.

And a 2010 study found that suicides ceased at Toronto's Bloor Street Viaduct after construction of a $5.5 million barrier there, although the city's overall rate of suicide by jumping didn't change.

Barrier supporters also cite a 1978 study by psychologist Richard Seiden of the University of California, Berkeley, who found that less than 10 percent of the more than 500 people who were stopped from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge between 1937 and 1971 eventually killed themselves.

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