Niagara Gazette

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June 9, 2013

Portlanders push for barrier at 'Suicide Bridge'

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — However, Garrett Glasgow, a political science professor at UC Santa Barbara, noted that the Golden Gate jumpers were stopped not by a barrier but by human intervention, which he calls a "more effective suicide-prevention technique."

There is no suicide barrier at the famous San Francisco landmark, from which more than 1,500 people have killed themselves. Officials have approved a design for a $50 million net that would catch people who try jumping, but construction has not begun because officials are still hunting for funding.

In a paper published in the Journal of Social Science and Medicine, Glasgow examined the relationship between suicide and bridges across more than 3,000 counties in the U.S. While jumping as a method of suicide increased in those places, he found that counties with unprotected bridges did not have higher overall suicide rates than counties without such bridges.

Glasgow added that no study has shown a statistically significant drop in the regional suicide rate even when a barrier is in place. In Oregon, 709 people killed themselves last year, mostly by shooting, hanging or poisoning themselves, so a barrier on the Vista is unlikely to make much of a dent in the overall state suicide rate.

Eric Caine, director of the Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention at the University of Rochester, said communities must decide whether the cost of such prevention methods is worth the payoff.

"When a community has an iconic suicide site, and they know it, what do their values say about preventing suicide at that site, even if it's a small number overall?" he said.

Another consideration is the public nature of the Vista Bridge deaths, which happen on a heavily traveled street, affecting scores of people. The teenager who killed herself last week landed on some light-rail tracks under the bridge, shutting down train service in both directions for more than an hour as police investigated. Commuters became unwitting witnesses.

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