Hello all you lovely readers, I have some exciting news!! The Hayward Area Historical Society is looking for some new and unique ideas for exhibits in their museum and has asked me for my input on The Golden Gate Bridge Suicides. Cool, right? I am just thrilled to have this opportunity and want to share my process with all of you.
My plan is to first give them a little background information on the bridge and the suicides. The Golden Gate Bridge is a symbol that many people all across the world have come to associate with not only the Bay Area and California, but the United States as a whole. Bay Area citizens are proud to claim it as one of the most iconic symbols representing America. The beauty that it holds is captivating and people travel for miles just to witness the wonder, but there is a dark secret it also possesses. San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is also known as the number one suicide location in the world.
On average there have been roughly thirty suicides off of the Golden Gate Bridge since its opening in 1937. Although it is extremely difficult to be precise about the numbers we do know that it is gradually increasing each year. A writer from The San Francisco Chronicle, Demian Bulwa wrote that statement in March 2012. “Thirty-seven people killed themselves by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge in 2011, an increase from the past few years, said an organization pushing for the addition of a suicide barrier on the 75-year-old landmark.” In her article she discusses that in the seventy-five year life span of the bridge there has still not been a constructive solution to these tragedies and the biggest reason for that being that there are not enough people are invested in this project. If we can offer more insight about these suicides and somehow convey to the Bay Area citizens that these incidents are absolutely 100% preventable if we stand together against this fight for better suicide prevention and mental illness awareness then a difference can be made. The Chronicle has very interesting pieces on the Golden Gate Bridge, the jumpers, the suicide prevention organizations, and the bridge patrol officers that attempt to save the troubled people every day. This part of the exhibit could have newspaper clippings written on and about the Golden Gate jumpers posted on a canvas into a collage. I would like to set up a station in my exhibit dedicated directly to the San Francisco Chronicle because they are very close to the matter they recognize the significance of the situation and tend to give a lot more time to the issue.
This location is a prime spot for those battling the decision to take their own life because it offers almost no plan for error. However, there have been jumpers to change their mind in the midst of this traumatic fall and live to tell the tale. Kevin Hines was diagnosed with a mental illness when he was seventeen and struggled every day with his depression and anger. One day in 2000, he decided that there was no other way out of his depression but to find escape through jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge and ending his life. When he got to the bridge he was in a terrible state; crying, confused and just broken inside. He told himself that if just one person showed him compassion that he would change his mind, but when a German tourist asked him to take a picture for her and did not even acknowledge the fact that he was completely distraught and ask if he was alright it was the last straw. He hurled himself over the edge and his first thought was that he did not want to die. Within the four second 220 ft. drop, Kevin managed to position himself in such a manner that allowed him to survive the treacherous fate that so many others have chosen. Now he is one of the biggest advocates for suicide prevention and mental health awareness. “He is the sole survivor actively spreading the message of living mentally well and the prevention of suicide.” That has been my biggest goal in writing this blog and so I definitely want to have a part of my exhibit dedicated to Kevin Hines and his story. In this part of the exhibit, I would like to have Kevin Hines’s story, pictures of before and after portraying his fight to raise awareness about mental illness.
Kevin Hines has taken action since his suicide attempt, action against mental illness. He has made it his mission to educate people on mental health issues and show them how important it is to be aware of them. People with mental illness are no different than anyone else in the fact that they are still people and they have problems like everyone else. The difference is that their problems are amplified by an illness that sometimes can overpower them and render them helpless. By raising awareness on this issue we can help them fight back and take charge of the situation. Kevin not only speaks out about mental illness, but he has a website, blog and is a major supporter of suicide prevention organizations. “As an advisory board member of The Bridge Rail Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to ending suicides from the Golden Gate, Hines also works to raise the estimated $50 million needed to install a net under the bridge. Congress recently passed a federal transportation bill that might release some money that could be used for the project, but the funding isn’t certain.” With the help from these organizations, he is able to spread his story and inform the nation that those struggling with mental illness are not alone and there is hope. The knowledge that he provides us with can help to preserve more lives of jumpers from the Golden Gate Bridge. “It is possible to live well with a serious Mental Health Issue. It takes a great deal of hard work and dedication. But first and foremost, it takes complete acceptance of your particular Mental Health Condition, to finally Live Mentally Well. It is my life’s work to reach out to all communities and speak up and often about my battle with Bipolar Disorder. It is my goal to help those suffering find help and commit to some form of effective treatment plan. I want to help give everyone the ability to find hope for their future.” I hope to use Kevin Hines’s message and inspiration to encourage more people to join the fight against mental illness by adding his story, interviews, pictures, blogs, and speeches to my exhibit.
An interesting interview with Kevin by Louise Rafkin written in the Bay Citizen discussed how there has always been complications with suicide and the Golden Gate Bridge. “Within months of opening in 1937, there was a suicide from the bridge. The numbers grew over time. Now, the estimated number of suicides is about three per month. As of the end of 2011, 1,558 people had jumped from the bridge in the past 75 years, though Hines says the number might be closer to double that. Some bodies wash out to sea or are eaten by fish, he said.” While going over the approach to educate more people about mental illness, it is brought to our attention that plans have been reviewed for a barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge, but never executed. This being mainly because of financial issues that derives from lack of priority. Since people are blind or know little about the mental health issues that relate to the problem they are less concerned with the issue and therefore it becomes marked as something of little to no importance. My exhibit will show a 3D model of the bridge with the barrier that is proposed with a description offering more information about the reasons that this prevention plan is vital to not only the jumpers, but the Bay Area as a whole. By not doing everything that it can to prevent these situations from happening the Bay Area is partially responsible for these suicides.
I want the main part of my exhibit to be about mental health awareness and suicide prevention incorporating the documentary, The Bridge and some quotes and statistics from the book The Final Leap into the mix as well. I would like for people to be able to connect with those who have jumped as well as the families and friends who were affected by their heart wrenching decision, in hopes that they will realize that those who knew the jumper are not the only ones who suffer. And also to show people that there are options that we have yet to try, but we need more help putting them into action. People who suffer from mental illness are not the only ones who chosen this escape, but they do make up a vast majority and if we can take steps to raise awareness and make a change then hopefully we can save some lives. We need to be more aware of what is going on around us in our community. Knowledge in mental illness can help in more ways than one; it can help raise awareness and funds, add more people to the cause, bring back the famous glamor to San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge, and help those who have lost loved ones find closure and peace. This exhibit can do all of these things, but we need help. There is power in numbers.
Bateson, John. The Final Leap. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.
Bulwa, Demian. “Golden Gate Bridge suicides up last year.” The San Francisco Chronicle. March 8, 2012. Accessed May 23, 2013. http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Golden-Gate-Bridge-suicides-up-last-year-3390080.php#ixzz2U8UMiTRu
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Documentary Addict. “The Bridge.” Documentary Addict: Watch Documentaries Online. Videofile. http://www.documentaryaddict.com/The+Golden+Gate+Bridge+Suicides-9258-documentary.html (accessed May 11, 2013).
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Hines, Kevin. “Kevin Hines Story.” The Kevin Hines Story. http://www.kevinhinesstory.com/ (Accessed May 23, 2013).
James, Scott. “A Year of Rising Suicides on Bridge and Tracks.” The New York Times. August 26, 2011. Accessed May 6, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/26/us/26bcjames.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
James, Vincent. “Golden Gate Bridge.” Photo. Allposters.com 16 Apr. 2013. <www.allposters.com>.
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Lynch, R.J. “The Bridge: Suicide and the Golden Gate Bridge.” Radiant Writing Blog. Entry posted March 25, 2013. http://radiantwriting.hubpages.com/hub/The-Bridge-Suicide-on-the-Golden-Gate-Bridge (accessed 13 May 2013).
McCandless, Peter, Sabine Krayenbuhl, Alex Heffes, Christopher Covert, Jim Black, Margaret Crimmins, Greg Smith, Alison Palmer Bourke and Evan Shapiro. The Bridge. DVD. Produced and directed by Eric Steel. Port Washington, NY: Easy There Tiger, Inc., 2006.
Plotts, S. G. “Suicide in San Francisco.” British Medical Journal. Vol. 285, No. 6336, 1982: 189-199.
Rafkin, Louise. “Survivor of bridge jump advocates for mental health, safety barrier.” The Bay Citizen. August 20, 2012. Accessed May 23, 2013. https://www.baycitizen.org/blogs/change-agents/survivor-bridge-jump-advocates-mental/
Reisman, William. “Golden Gate Bridge Suicides Again Top 30 Deaths in 2012.”The Examiner. January 10, 2013. Accessed April 22, 2013. http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2013/01/golden-gate-bridge-suicides-again-top-30-2012#ixzz2RMIEqAdu
The Golden Gate Bridge Foundation. http://bridgerail.org/ (Accessed May 23, 2013).
Tweedie, Neil. “Golden Gate Bridge is the world’s most popular site for suicide: ‘Just why do they make it so easy?’.” Telegraph Media Group Limited. May 26, 2012. Accessed May 13, 2013. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/features/9289970/Golden-Gate-Bridge-is-the-worlds-most-popular-site-for-suicide-Just-why-do-they-make-it-so-easy.html
 Demian Bulwa, “Golden Gate Bridge suicides up last year,” The San Francisco Chronicle, March 8, 2012.
 Louise Rafkin, “Survivor of bridge jump advocates for mental health, safety barrier,” The Bay Citizen, August 20, 2012.
 Louise Rafkin, “Survivor of bridge jump advocates for mental health, safety barrier,” The Bay Citizen, August