Archive | August, 2014

Suicide Prevention Efforts Surging In The U.S. : The George Washington Bridge To Erect A Barrier To Stop Jumpers

12 Aug


Once it was announced that the Golden Gate Bridge would have safety nets built to foil would-be suicide jumpers, there was no doubt that the floodgates would immediately open and every bridge and transportation authority in the country would eventually succumb to the pressure to follow suit.

It has taken only a month for the latest major bridge to join the suicide prevention effort in the most serious and effective way. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey announced on July 30th that it would build a nine foot fence across both sides of the George Washington Bridge that would make it virtually impossible for someone to jump from the span. The move comes in response to the fact that the number of suicides from the GWB is on pace to set a record this year, with 13 having taken place through the third week of July.

The project will cost between $37 and $47 million, as compared to $76 million for the Golden Gate Bridge safety net project. It is incomprehensible to a layman like me, though, that it will reportedly take until 2022 to complete the fence construction. The nets at the Golden Gate Bridge will only take 4 years to complete, but this fence will take twice as long? A lot of lives risk being lost in New Jersey during that proposed 8 year period. But we need to be thankful for the fact that another major bridge authority has seen the light and has taken action to start the process. The evidence In favor of these types of actions is indisputable. According to an article on this landmark decision in

“…research published over the last 20 years from bridges around the world suggests that nets and fences reduce jumping suicides significantly, often down to zero. A review of 19 research papers by the Harvard School of Public Health found that ‘barriers have been largely effective in stopping or dramatically reducing suicide deaths.’”

I was taken aback recently when someone I know well asked me, “Why do you care, Rich? None of this can bring Jeff back.”

I care because it’s bad enough that my son took his own life, but it’s even more devastatingly painful to know that it could easily have been prevented forever if the trend of building bridge barriers had begun years ago.

I care because I want everything possible done to ensure that someday, no other families will have to endure the pain and mental anguish that we have. I miss Jeff so much, and I don’t want other parents to have to feel that sense of irretrievable loss.

And I care because every life is precious, and my research on this topic has convinced me that the overwhelming majority of people who suffer from anxiety and depression can be saved with a combination of love, mentoring and physical suicide barriers. Innocent lives are being lost every day in atrocious wars being waged all over the world by people and governments who are either unable or unwilling to stop them. We certainly can’t let lives be lost to a plague like suicide that is entirely preventable–at least those from bridge jumping– and is now clearly on the way to eventually being eradicated.

We are painfully reminded that suicides continue to occur in other ways.  On August 9th, just three days ago, one of Jeff’s KDR brothers became the latest to demonstrate that.  And now Robin Williams.  The pain of seeing more precious lives lost is excruciating, but we simply cannot give up the fight against this epidemic.  It is difficult to stay resolute in the face of these horrific setbacks, but we must.  There is no alternative.  Attend to those closest to you and make sure you know how they are feeling at all times.  Be attentive and love hard.

Though I’m late in getting involved in this effort, I will be stepping up my own activity in this area in the coming months (to be discussed in a blog post soon). And I will need your help.

For now, though, I just wanted you to know that the momentum in suicide prevention is unstoppable. Two of the highest profile bridges in our nation have taken the bold step of agreeing to erect barriers. It is no longer a question of whether all others will jump on the bandwagon. It is just a question of when.

Yes, it is too late for Jeff, and that rips my heart out. But I still care, and passionately so. I need you to care too, because if a young man like Jeff could succumb, then others who you’d never assume to be at risk, might be. With every day that passes, though, we get closer to being able to stop them.

–Rich Klein