Judith's Reviews > The Final Leap: Suicide on the Golden Gate Bridge

The Final Leap by John Bateson
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's review
Jun 09, 2012

it was amazing
Read in May, 2012

I had to write a paper for a class - research paper on a current movement in our culture. Being me, I chose the movement for a suicide barrier on the golden gate bridge. Living in the bay area with a lifetime of depression, the golden gate has always been a double-edged sword in the background. I was appalled to discover that between 1600-3200 have leapt to their deaths there and that 4 small children have been murdered by their fathers (thrown from the deck) there - and that this is easily 3-6x the number at any other "suicide magnet" on the planet before barriers have been constructed. I did a ton of research then happy came across John Bateson's newest book on the subject.

Batesman was the executive director of a crisis center in the bay area county I live in for 17 years. Unlike me, when he was hired into his position two decades ago, he had no idea about the death toll of the infamous bridge.

This book is totally readable, very accessible - its organization and presentation walk the reader through the history, the personal, the political. It clarifies any questions you might have, and serves as a more than fair indictment of the small group of individuals who, as the bridge district, have ignored need for a suicide barrier for 75 years.

Whether you are pro-barrier or anti-barrier, the history is rich and incredible and Bateson offers it in an accessible tour of the many decades, the many, many unnecessary deaths.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by Andi (new)

Andi Interesting! I still can't believe that there are people opposed to a suicide barrier. It seems so selfish/inconsiderate/cruel to me. All of the few survivors will tell you that they immediately regretted their decision once they jumped off the bridge. The lure of the escape that the bridge can give them is irresistible to someone depressed with clouded judgement. Put in the damn barrier and save lives. What the hell is wrong with these people who resist? Arg.(Not I like have an opinion about this or anything...)

Judith Absolutely obscene, I agree. It's the city of SF - they don't want to hurt their tourism. The SF Medical Examiner has never attributed any death to the bridge. Even a body washed up on angel island with was deemed to have died from a "fall from a great height" - they just label them as falls, alongside folks who trip over bumps in the sidewalk.

Fear/hatred of mental illness. But 4 little kids were killed by their parents - that by itself should warrant a barrier. Fear/hatred of mental illness and those who suffer from it. :o(

message 3: by Andi (new)

Andi The bridge is still gorgeous. I don't think a barrier (designed well) would hurt tourism at all. I thought several various design ideas were proposed for barriers and some of them weren't that ugly/obvious (like strong netting below the rails, etc.)? I can't remember the details. Arg...

Judith They've approved "The Net" - as you described, which isn't the best choice, but the bridge district has no intention of funding it. Money has to materialize out of thin air. Very complicated and very frustrating.

One interesting thing is - the engineer who built the bridge designed it with a 5.5' rail with a curved top to the rail - he boasted the bridge would be virtually suicide proof. An architect hired to do the artistic features changed the rail.

There is honestly no reason outside of societal bias that there is no barrier. It's very sad and frustrating.

The current movement for a barrier is the 8th of its kind, and the approval of The Net is progress, but - honestly - we are no closer to a solution. The book is great and includes a lot of detailed history. It's just a shame that somewhere around 3k people have had to die and that SF is unique in its inability or unwillingness to choose a solution and execute it. I should send you my paper. :o)

message 5: by Andi (new)

Andi If I had the time, I'd love to read your paper. Perhaps email it to me and I can read it one sleepless night? :-)

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