This past week a statistic caught my eye that I found exceptionally profound. It had to do with suicide attempts made by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
Perhaps the stat was made more meaningful by my having crossed the Golden Gate a few times when my son and daughter were living out there a few years ago. In part, the statistic was striking because my brother, a Ph.D. psychologist, and I once intended to write a book about suicide, tentatively titled To Heal Broken Wings. We’d each known a few people close to us who took their own lives, or attempted it.
That was near 30 years ago and, sadly, over the course of a lifetime the list has gotten longer.
So what was the stat that so struck me? It was not the quantity of people who have leapt to their death from that bridge, nearly one every 16 days. Rather, it was this. All 29 people who survived their suicide attempts off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge have said they regretted their decision as soon as they jumped.
That’s a mind-blowing statement. Each and every one who survived was immediately regretting their decision to leap to their deaths.
A few days passed before I decided I wished to write about it. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the trigger article, though Google quickly helped me find a few other stories that re-affirmed that original account.
The first was titled The Jumpers, by Steve Taylor, Ph.D. The Jumpers opens by introducing us to a Ken Baldwin who had struggled with depression much of his life. Taylor shares details of what brought him to this point, then segues into a several details about suicides on the Golden Gate.
From the beginning there have been 20 suicides a year at the bridge, he writes. He goes on to say, “Every jumper has a 98% chance of success, a much higher percentage than for hanging, a drug overdose, or shooting. The bridge is 225 feet high, and after a four second fall, jumpers hit the water at a speed of 75 mph, with a force equivalent to a lorry crashing into a wall.”
The moment Ken Baldwin let go of the railing he immediately thought, “What am I doing? This was the worst…