Dork-o-Rama: The Random Thoughts of a Total Goofball

Embracing the Dork Side....Because Life is Too Short to Take Yourself Too Seriously

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Most disturbing...

Pretty, isn't it? I gotta say, I never get tired of looking at it. And if you've ever visited my lovely city, you've looked at it too. Maybe even walked across it.

Did you know that more people commit suicide here than at any other single location in the world?

I learned that depressing fact during the screening of a documentary, "The Bridge," that's about to get a wider theatrical release next month.

This is far from a popcorn movie. The filmmaker set up his cameras to shoot the bridge for an entire year, and caught on film a number of suicides. So you sit on edge, in the dark, waiting for the first one... because you know it's going to be disturbing. And oh my GOD, it is. And it doesn't get any easier to watch the rest of the jumps. (I can't remember how many are shown; maybe six?)

But the heart of the film is interviews with the loved ones of those who jumped in 2004, and some of the people who witnessed some of the suicides. Oh, there's also a guy who stopped a woman from jumping.

It's heartbreaking. And again makes the case for a suicide barrier on the span.

It's an issue that's been debated here for years, and I was one of those who believed the opponents' argument -- that people who are hell-bent on taking their own lives will find some way to do it. If not on the Golden Gate, then somewhere else. So why spend a lot of money and alter the look of the bridge?

The San Francisco Chronicle published a great series last year or the year before on the issue, and talked to some of those who've jumped AND SURVIVED (!) (one of whom I've met). None of them ever made another suicide attempt. All of them talked about how easy it was to just pull themselves over the railing and go. The guy I met (who appears in this documentary) says as soon as he jumped, he regretted it. So he spent the rest of his 220-fall into the icy water below trying to position his body so that he might live.

That alone changed my mind. And the people who run the bridge are now moving forward -- albeit slowly, in that tedious bureaucratic fashion -- with the process to put some kind of barrier up.

What is my point? I guess I don't have one. Except that it's been almost a week since I saw this film and I can't get those images out of my mind.

(Which is why we -- a co-worker and I -- had to go have a drink afterwards. HAD to. I should have expensed that....)

At 28 September, 2006 01:45, Blogger The Missouri Savage said...

That is rather disturbing... I'd have probably had to have had a drink too....

At 28 September, 2006 05:21, Blogger Jeannette said...

I watched the trailer and you're right, it's very disturbing. It doesn't show a person actually jumping, but it shows enough...people sitting there waiting for the right moment and then they flip one leg over the rail.

I can see why you needed that drink.

My word verification is vjemnp.

At 28 September, 2006 16:32, Blogger DZER said...

I love that bridge ... and will look forward to the movie ...

At 28 September, 2006 19:06, Blogger terry said...

savage, i'm not even sure disturbing's the right word. it was... GAH!

jeannette, that's the thing about this film -- the director follows all sorts of people walking across the bridge, stopping, looking over the edge... and you just can't tell who it's going to be. OY.

dz, i love that bridge too. especially when i'm driving south into the city. as i come down the waldo grade... i look at the bridge, and the view around it, and think, "wow, i live here!" every time.

how tragic that it draws so much death.

At 28 September, 2006 19:33, Blogger JMai said...

That documentary sounds like it'll be worth watching. Creepy, for sure... but interesting.

I can't wait for the opportunity to see that bridge in person. It's so pretty.

At 28 September, 2006 19:46, Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

Somewhere, there's a line between protecting people from their own idiocy, and not padding and restructuring every piece of public property in order to keep the idiots safe. I have no idea where it is.

There shouldn't have to be a law that says people must wear seatbelts. There shouldn't have to be a law that says people must wear helmets when riding bikes and motorcycles.

Yet, people continue to not do these basic things to allow themselves a better chance at living.

One thing's for certain: there is not nearly enough being done about mental illness in this country, other than to stigmatize those who seek it. I wonder how many of those people on that bridge just needed to be heard--just needed someone to talk to?

Hey, let's go bomb another country! USA! USA!


At 28 September, 2006 19:57, Blogger terry said...

pirate, you're right. we can't protect people from EVERYTHING.

but the point of the barrier advocates is that if you make it just a little harder for people to take that jump, it just might save some lives.

the people who work on the bridge are trained to spot the signs of despondency, and how to talk to someone who appears to be on the verge... and there are phones on the bridge that are hooked up to the suicide hotline.

still... it happens. all the time.

the guy who jumped tells the story of how he was bawling his eyes out for the longest time while on the bridge, and the only person who talked to him was a tourist who asked him to take her picture. she didn't seem to notice the tears streaming down his face.

i could not agree with you more about the way we deal with -- or don't, really -- mental illness. it's criminal.

At 28 September, 2006 21:08, Blogger Natalia said...

Nevertheless it is interesting, isn't it? I love that city. And I think some people need that beauty as the last place. Does that make sense?


At 29 September, 2006 00:26, Blogger Queen of Cheese said...


Makes sense to me. Granted, I havent' seen this film and perhaps I'll change my mind. But, if I wanted to make that kind of decision, this is where I'd do it. So ... do I want to take the ability to do what I want to do where I want away from other people?? maybe ... maybe not. Perhaps I really can't weigh in on this ... because actually, I like having the option. sorry.

At 29 September, 2006 07:48, Blogger bg's Little Sis said...


I heard a piece about this documentary on the radio a couple of weeks back, I thought I'd want to see it, but now I don't know. Thanks for sharing, I must agree with you and Balloon Pirate, how we deal with mental illness in this country is shameful, the stigma for those who seek help that is propagated is offensive. The fear of those 220 feet and how to position your body, holy crap, scary stuff...and asking to take a picture while he's sobbing, people can be so self day in church a few years back my dad noticed this woman crying, all through the service, she was in the pew in front of us...after mass he went up and asked her if she was ok, could he help, could he call someone, did she just need someone to listen. They spoke for a bit, church had cleared out. I think he saved her life that day...she just needed to be heard.

lots of love,

At 29 September, 2006 08:23, Blogger Balloon Pirate said...

I'm not advocating against the suicide barriers. I'm howling against living in the sort of society that makes suicide barriers necessary. In Washington, they just passed a law in the Senate allowing us to torture, allowig our government the right to lock up anyone, anywhere--including you and me--without us having the right to know why. One of the Senators who wanted this bill passed (I think it was Lott) said that he'd "be able to sleep well at night" knowing he helped pass this unAmerican bill.

Argh. Sorry for ranting. Suicide barriers are probably a good thing. Especially for me right now.


At 29 September, 2006 18:00, Blogger terry said...

nat, that absolutely makes sense. and as this movie points out, that's part of the attraction for so many.

cheese, i'll bet that even WITH a barrier, there will still be a way to make that jump. it will just take more effort.

lil'sis, that's an amazing story. and shows how easy it can be to reach out to someone.

pirate, i hear you. and yes, that bill? heinous. horrifying. vomitous.
and rant away! i enjoy it.

At 29 September, 2006 18:54, Blogger buddha_girl said...


I'm going to be on the lookout for that documentary.

Your post brought back the day when I received the chilling news that my good friend's father pulled his car over on the way to work...rush hour traffic into Manhatten, calmly removed his jewelry, left the car running, and jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge. Hundreds of people saw him. His body was found weeks later, bloated and hung up on branches near the water's edge.

At 29 September, 2006 19:13, Blogger terry said...

buddha girl, i'm sitting here with my mouth open in shock over that story.
holy crap. did anyone have any idea that he was depressed/upset/ whatever?

At 04 October, 2006 21:02, Blogger pkh said...

Since 1937, more than 1200 people have committed suicide by jumping off of the Golden Gate Bridge, according to an article on the San Francisco Chronicle website. What’s even more disturbing is that both the number of suicide deaths and the number of people suffering from depression has increased dramatically in the last 40 years; in fact, the suicide rate among American 15-to-24-year-olds has tripled since 1960, according to the National Mental Health Association. I am not claiming to be an expert in this area, but surely there is something that people are missing here. Why has this plight gone unnoticed?Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Steel had the same question. He knew that he wanted to make people more aware about depression and suicide. He wanted to know why human suffering goes mostly unnoticed, and why the world goes on with its business while so many people want to take their own lives.

In the six suicide jumps that Steel shows in “The Bridge,” there are other people besides the jumpers in the shots: there are people walking across the bridge, people looking on, people joking around and talking to one another. In most cases, apparently, those people do not notice or try to prevent the jumps from happening. How many tourists, motorists and walkers pass on the bridge every day, and why didn’t anyone help? These situations are truly a visual metaphor for the way people handle depressed/suicidal persons in society.

Of course, though, there’s a catch.

When officials of the City of San Francisco viewed “The Bridge” at film festivals and heard about Steel’s motives last year, they were outraged. Apparently Steel told them that he was shooting a movie about historical landmarks so that he could obtain a permit to film the Golden Gate. He later explained that he thought if people found out he was filming to research suicide, more people might actually jump from the bridge on purpose to be immortalized on film.

Still, the officials weren’t convinced. They put up a big stink about how the documentary is bad PR for the city and the Golden Gate Bridge. Last week, though, city officials approved a design for a “suicide barrier” on the bridge, saying that they are concerned about the growing suicide rate.

Not all the officials are convinced, though. In an article in the Marin Independent Journal, San Francisco board member Mark Martini was quoted as saying, “This is not the highest priority. There are bigger issues for us, such as the (roadway median) barrier.”

Are you kidding?

Instead of worrying about what kind of “priority” it is that people commit suicide off of the bridge all the time, and thinking about how badly Steel’s documentary will make the city look, maybe city officials should thank their lucky stars that someone cared enough about people to make and release this film. The fact that over 1200 individuals have died at the bridge should probably make people turn their heads, and not a blind eye.

Suicide is a controversial subject on which I am in no way an expert. I know that if individuals desire to take their own lives, there may not be a way to stop it. However, “The Bridge” is also a movie about suicide prevention and what families and friends can do to potentially identify problems with loved ones. Furthermore, if city officials think that there’s no way to prevent jumps off of the bridge, they wouldn’t have passed that resolution to study the installation of a barrier. Personally, I think the city should be more worried about the bad reputation they are getting because so many people kill themselves in San Francisco, and not worried as much that someone put out a documentary about it. If the movie wasn’t released, it wouldn’t change the fact that this actually happens.

Officials should probably be less worried about bad press and more worried about the “human spirit in crisis.”

But shouldn’t we all?


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