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If you build it they won't jump?
I came across a study published in a British psychiatric journal online which focused on a barrier erected on the Bloor Street Viaduct in Toronto, ON. The study states that this barrier eliminated death by suicide from jumping off that bridge, but total suicide deaths by jumping did not significantly decrease they just happened at alternate locations.
Ok so how do we make sense and what do we learn from this?! In this particular study the barrier proves to be %100 effective in stopping suicide deaths by jumping from the Bloor Street Bridge. But, the number of suicides by jumping from bridges other than the Bloor Street Viaduct did not decrease and in fact they actually rose from 8.7 per year to 14.2 per year after the barrier was installed.
So what does this mean? Is it a waste to build suicide barriers on bridges? Should we build barriers on every single bridge?
For me, this just re-affirms that there is no simple quick fix in suicide prevention. There needs to be many different approaches, and we need to make certain that the approaches that we implement actually work. The study appears to prove what I personally had already suspected: that physical barriers alone are not enough to prevent people intent on killing themselves. To me this is the first clear evidence I’ve seen that when a barrier is placed on one bridge, there can be a significant increase in suicide-by-jumping from other bridges in the area.
IMO such barriers are only a piece of a larger puzzle, but they are certainly not the whole answer. In order to really prevent suicides, we need programs that improve access to psychiatrists and other mental health workers that improve the sense of hope. In addition, we need to train our doctors, nurses, teachers, police and anyone willing on how to deal with suicidal persons. It would be interesting to know the difficulty in obtaining funding for concrete restriction projects!? While it’s a known fact that Mental Health support programs are still persistently underfunded. In addition, we should be training doctors and nurses, teachers on how to deal with suicidal persons.
Lastly, I think studies like this can be seen as an important message to city planners in other cities, who are planning to install barriers or nets below their bridges -- Barriers may just shift the problem elsewhere, unless we deal with the fundamental suffering that prompts suicides in the first place.
What does everyone else think?