The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


A Mother's Point of View: Choose Life

I was not always in favor of a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge. Here’s what changed my mind.

Three years ago a colleague shared that his friend's fourteen-year-old son, traveling between school in San Francisco and home in Marin County, got off the bus one day after school and walked to the railing of the Golden Gate Bridge. Some things were troubling him, and he put his leg up over the railing, preparing to jump. Then he took his leg down, caught the bus home, and told his mother, who sought help immediately.

He's fine now.

My daughter was fourteen at the time I heard this story. Any lingering ambivalence I felt about the barrier evaporated. So much of the barriers to the barrier have to do with our failure to identify not only with the person who is suffering, but also with the hope that lies beyond one moment. A bridge barrier will not save every life, but it will buy precious moments that will save many lives.

The evidence is overwhelming that the vast majority of people who are stopped from committing suicide do not go on to kill themselves. Some will, but most do not--impulses pass, circumstances change, help is found, the balance toward affirming life over death shifts.

A barrier will save not only most of the would-be jumpers, but the families, friends and communities who are always devastated in the wake of a suicide.

If the choice were between spending forty million on a bridge barrier versus forty million on excellent mental health services, I would choose the latter so that more people could be helped. But it's not as if there's an existing pot of money that will get transferred back and forth between important competing causes. Both need commitment and will, and right now the time is ripe for the commitment and will to erect a suicide barrier.

Refusing to do so out of a false hope that the money will reach those in need some other way is misguided

Several years ago, a toddler tragically fell to her death from the Golden Gate Bridge in a freak accident. She had somehow slipped through a narrow gap between the curb and the roadway. Funds were immediately found to close the gap, although this was the only such death to have ever occurred and there was almost no chance it would happen again. Arguably, the money could have been better spent since it was unlikely that more such tragedies would occur. Nonetheless, an infinitesimally small risk was quickly remedied.

True, this remedy did not obscure any views. Nor did the loss of life involve mental illness or teenagers or difficult or impulsive people.

It was a matter of will and empathy.

So is the bridge barrier.

Suicide is not a freak accident, but a real and preventable risk. Imagine if it were you or someone you loved about to swing a leg up over the rail. You might then find the money and the ability to get used to a slightly different fabulous view.

By Lorrie Goldin

Note: The Bridge District is accepting comments on the five options for a bridge barrier until August 25. I encourage you to go to the Bridge District Website and vote in favor of a barrier (not the net, which poses its own risks and extra costs). The site is On the right side is a link for "Comments to the DEIR/EA" (Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment). Click on the link, and then enter your name and your choice.


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A few years ago the pianist of our church who had long suffered with bouts of depression purchased groceries before beginning her drive across the GG bridge toward home. Stuck in traffic, perhaps even for a few minutes, the delay was long enough for her to get out of the car and jump from the bridge to her death. An impulsive act. A tragically impulsive act which a moment before or after distraction may have curtailed. The groceries still sitting in her car.
Why not a barrier?
Thanks for writing this Lorrie.
This was great and needed. You shoul dsubmit it to the Marin Voice in the IJ.

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