More people choose to end their lives at the Golden Gate bridge than other other place in the world. A couple of years ago I read an article about this fact in the New Yorker titled, Jumpers by Tad Friend.
The article inspired director Eric Steel to film the Golden Gate Bridge for a year. His film crew caught 23 suicides, missed one and also recorded a man saving a girl from jumping by grabbing her jacket and physically pulling her off the edge of the bridge. They also captured a failed attempt when a boy survived his jump and was kept afloat by a Bay Area seal until the coast guard arrived to rescue him.
The camera crew vigilantly called the bridge authorities when they observed clear signs of someone about to jump. In doing so, they foiled six near suicides.
Steel took criticism for the film after he lied about his intentions in order to get permission, saying it was a documentary about a day in the life of the Golden Gate Bridge.
The film is called, The Bridge (trailer). It first aired in September 2006 and was released on DVD June 12th, 2007.
San Francisco columnist Violet Blue gives a very interesting review of the film and includes a Q & A mp3 with director Eric Steel.
A few notes on a Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier after the jump:
NOTES ON THE SUICIDE BARRIER AT THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
The guard rail that separates pedestrians on the Golden Gate Bridge from the outer ledge and the water 225 feet below is only 4 feet high. There is no suicide barrier.
For more than 50 years, the Golden Gate Bridge District has resisted the idea of building a suicide barrier on their bridge. They have cited various reasons—engineering, cost, effectiveness, and aesthetic.
A decade ago, they instituted a “non-physical barrier” method of suicide prevention that includes security cameras, bike patrols, and hotline phones — but the suicide rate at the Golden Gate Bridge remains constant. There are roughly 20 suicides there each year.
The Bridge District authorities invested millions of dollars in a barrier between the pedestrian walkway and the roadway — though there has never been a pedestrian/vehicular fatality. They have also invested in the development of a movable median divider, though head on collisions on the bridge are practically non-existent.
When the nature of this film was revealed, the Bridge District was once again forced to confront the issue of a suicide barrier. The press frenzy was intense. Vocal, and more organized outcry by family members and mental health care professionals prompted the authorities to authorize a study of a suicide barrier. Citing financial burden and hardship, the Bridge District made no provisions for this study in their budgets; grants by state and federal transportation bureaus provided nearly three quarters of the $2 million dollar estimated costs, but for almost a year the Bridge District refused to move forward until all the funds had been gathered. Finally, in March 2006, when news that THE BRIDGE would be shown at the Tribeca Film Festival and the San Francisco International Film Festival, the authorities voted to begin the study with the funds at hand. Additional state transportation funds were provided in April 2006 so that the study is now fully funded — but the results of the study are many months away, and the estimated cost of actually building a barrier is $25 million.