They may be four years late and $148 million over budget, but the Golden Gate Bridge’s suicide prevention barriers are now fully in place on both sides of the bridge’s entire 1.7-mile span.
The idea to install suicide prevention nets on the Golden Gate Bridge, which has long been a frequently used destination for suicide jumps, saw the suicide barriers approved way back in 2014. The expected completion date was 2019, and the initial cost estimate was $76 million. As any Bay Area government infrastructure project goes, it started years behind schedule, experienced numerous further delays, and its costs went far over budget (coming in at $224 million).
But the day has arrived, to the relief of suicide prevention advocates. KGO reports that the Golden Gate Bridge suicide prevention nets are now complete, and fully cover both sides of the entire 1.7-mile span of the bridge.
“As of January 1, 2024, the Golden Gate Bridge now has a continuous physical suicide barrier installed the full length of the 1.7-mile span,” the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District announced in a Wednesday press release. “The purpose of the net is to reduce the number of deaths associated with individuals jumping off the Bridge. The net is a proven design that deters people from jumping, serves as a symbol of care and hope to despondent individuals, and, if necessary, offers people a second chance.”
A few people who’ve jumped — and survived — insist that the net would have stopped them.
"I would have hesitated,” Kevin Hines told KGO (Hines is known for his 2000 jump where a sea lion allegedly helped save him). “I believe with enough time for patrol officers to wonder why is that kid just standing there leaning over the rail crying his eyes out."
While the barriers are actually only 95% complete, there is now something in place to prevent suicides on 100% of the bridge. And it's not a soft bouncy net, it’s stainless steel. “The net consists of marine-grade stainless steel netting installed 20 feet below the sidewalks and extending out 20 feet over the water,” according to the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District. “Jumping into the net is designed to be painful and may result in significant injury."
But psychiatrists are not entirely sold on the effectiveness of such barriers, as many people may easily seek to commit suicide elsewhere.
“Installing barriers on bridges that have been “suicide magnets” robustly reduces or even eliminates suicide deaths from those locations, but the impact on overall suicide rates remains less clear,” Dr. John Kruse wrote in Clinical Psychiatry News. “Various studies (e.g., in Maine, in Toronto, in England) have found subsequent increases or no changes in suicide deaths from adjacent bridges or tall buildings after the installation of suicide barriers. Many of these studies failed to find any change in overall suicide rates in the regions investigated.”
That said, the barrier has already reduced suicide deaths on the Goden Gate Bridge, even during 2023 when it was mostly just 75% complete. The bridge has averaged 30 suicides a year over the last 20 years. But in 2023, there were only 14 confirmed suicides.
And perhaps there will be even fewer every year going forward.
If you are in crisis, dial the national Crisis and Suicide Lifeline at 988 on any phone, or text "BAY" to 741741 for free, 24/7, confidential crisis support from Crisis Text Line. And if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you or they should call the San Francisco Suicide Prevention crisis line at 415-781-0500.
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide: do not leave the person alone; remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt; and call the national lifeline by dialing 988 or take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.
Image: SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 07: A Golden Gate Bridge patrol officer drives by the newly installed suicide prevention barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge on November 07, 2023 in San Francisco, California. A suicide prevention barrier made of a net of stainless steel cables on the Golden Gate Bridge is nearing completion after 6 years. The project originally projected to cost $76 million has ballooned to over $215 million and is expected to be finished by the end of the year. An estimated 30 to 40 people jumped from the bridge each year prior to the construction of the netting compared to 6 so far this year. Since the Golden Gate Bridge was built in 1937, an estimated 2,000 people have jumped to their deaths from the span. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)