Angels Patrol: How Suicides Are Saved at Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is one of the most famous bridges in the USA. It has been shown in many films, and many interesting stories are associated with it. But there is another side to this bridge - it has become a haven for suicides. How and who fights with it writes with the BBC.
The Bridge is a documentary of the 2006 of the year telling about the sad side of the Golden Gate. This is not only the most photographed building in the States and the most visited bridge in the world, but also a place where a large number of suicides are committed.
Who are the "Angels"
The bridge was opened in the 1937 year, and since then, according to official statistics, 1700 people committed suicide there. Only 2018 on the bridge recorded 187 suicide attempts - one every two days.
The fact that only 27 people from 187 achieved their goal is a merit of the police and volunteers. People like Mia Munair and Kevin Briggs have saved hundreds of people from death over the past 20 years.
Mia and Kevin are both police officers, although Briggs is already retired after years of service with the California Traffic Police.
Mia Munair has created a volunteer network called Bridgewatch Angels (“Patrol of the Angels”). Volunteers working with her regularly help authorities patrol the bridge to prevent suicide.
On the subject: Golden Gate Bridge: the history of the American symbol
As for Kevin Briggs, when he worked in the police, he received the nickname "Guardian of the Golden Gate." Over the years, he negotiated with more than 200 people who intended to commit suicide on the bridge.
Many of those who live close to San Francisco Bay are unaware of the dark side of the famous bridge. This also applied to Munair - until she was on the movie "Bridge" in 2010.
“My colleagues and I took a refresher course, and we were shown this documentary,” she shared.
“I realized that I had to do something to prevent new deaths.”
Then she founded the "Angels", who began to observe on the bridge with special dates, such as, for example, Valentine's Day or Christmas Eve. Volunteers of the organization were trained in methods of communication with people who are in a state of severe psychological stress.
On the subject: 10 Golden Gate Bridge Secrets
In the 2017 year, according to the Department of Health, in the USA, 47 thousand people committed suicide.
Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 10 and 34.
Munair spent over 10 thousand dollars of personal funds for education for volunteers who expressed their willingness to patrol the bridge on days of special significance.
In recent years, the military holidays have been included in the list of such dates, because the suicide rate among young veterans has jumped. According to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, 100 thousand people now have 40 deaths of former combatants, while the average for the United States is almost three times less - 14 deaths per 100 thousand people.
How to talk with people
Munair, a police officer, teaches volunteers how to spot people who need psychological help and how to help them.
She explains that the main thing is to “talk with people. Let them know that they are not alone. ”
And also listen: "Sometimes this is the best way to make contact."
As for the former policeman Kevin Briggs, then initially his work on the bridge was not connected with his personal choice. For over 20 years, the Golden Gate has been part of the area that he patrols every day.
For the first time, he came across a man trying to commit suicide on a bridge in the year 1994.
“At that time, the police were not specially trained to deal with such situations. I was seized with terrible fear when I saw a young girl climbing over the railing, ”Briggs said. “In my free time, I began to read about suicide prevention, and that was a good decision, because in the following 20 years I very often had to act in such situations.”
The famous case of salvation
More than 200 times, Briggs was able to convince people to get off the bridge, but twice he failed.
“Failures are more remembered than the people you helped,” said a former policeman who later had to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
He is now considered an authoritative consultant on suicide prevention. He lectures about this all over the country.
On the subject: Why do children commit suicide and can it be prevented
Briggs became famous in the 2005 year, when one of the cases of salvation was widely publicized in the local and world press. Across the railing was an 22-year-old man named Kevin Bertia, who was suffering from severe depression and was desperate over 250's bill of thousands of dollars for treating a premature daughter.
“I talked to him for more than an hour and a half, and he climbed back,” recalls Briggs.
Eight years later, it was from the hands of Bertia that Kevin Briggs received an award from the American Suicide Prevention Organization.
The problem of all of America
The Golden Gate Bridge is a mirror of what is happening throughout the country, the former policeman is sure. “The mental health problem is so great that it can no longer be ignored.”
Apparently, the local authorities finally agreed with this vision. After discussions that lasted several decades, the construction of a safety barrier to prevent suicide began in 2017.
The project costs 200 million dollars, and the installation of grids should be completed by the 2021 year. The nets will be six meters wide, and they will be suspended six meters below the surface of the bridge. This means, warns the official website of the Golden Gate that once they enter, people are likely to receive injuries and fractures.
There has been controversy surrounding the barrier installation project for a long time. Critics say that spending is not justified and the barrier will not save people who decide to commit suicide - they will find another way to do it.
“I support the barrier project because it is a powerful reminder that we value human life,” says San Francisco psychiatrist John Cruz.
Mia Munaer refers to the work of psychiatrist Richard Seiden, who studied the lives of people who were discouraged from suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge from 1937 to 1971.
Seiden found out that out of 515, only 25 people subsequently committed suicide.
In addition, according to Munair, on the Golden Gate Bridge, not all people follow the plan - many act impulsively.
“Many times, a person seemed to me just a tourist, and then it suddenly turned out that he urgently needed help,” she adds.
Kevin Briggs believes that an investment of 200 million dollars would be useful to spend on combating mental health problems nationwide, rather than in one specific place. However, he says he understands the proponents of the barrier well.
"I myself have not lost anyone on the bridge and I understand the relatives of the victims, who believe that the barrier would save their lives."
Myths and Prejudices
Briggs and Munaer agree that little is said about the problem of suicide.
“This topic is surrounded by prejudice. But we can no longer avoid talking about why 800 thousand people a year worldwide commit suicide, ”Briggs quoted World Health Organization statistics as saying.
Munaer believes that methods such as the 2006 documentary of the year offend lively and smash the “suicide myths” among people.
She also mentions public discussions where those who survived the suicide attempt on the Golden Gate Bridge talk about their experiences. As a rule, people say that they regretted their decision in the first seconds. Many also say that they would stop if passersby tried to contact them.
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“This bridge is a messenger of death,” said Kevin Hines, who survived the suicide attempt on the bridge in 2000. “But I wouldn’t have done it if someone had spoken to me.”
“If you see that someone is feeling bad, it’s your duty to come up and talk, try to open up the person and share what is in his soul,” says Mia Munaer. “Something can change thanks to you.”
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