On Monday, Sept. 21, during the meeting of the Public Safety Committee of Pasadena, the city had approved the final mockups of suicide prevention barriers designed by Chatsworth-based Custom Design Iron Works, Inc to install barriers on Colorado Street Bridge to deter jumpers. Although installing barriers on Colorado Street Bridge can reduce the chance of suicide attempts, to truly prevent suicidal actions the focus should be on treatment for depression and mental health.
The installation of barriers has been a debate between preserving history versus saving lives. Barriers will make suicide attempts harder, but if the decision of suicide is made up, it’s just a matter of place and method.
The Colorado Street Bridge located in Pasadena is also known as the “Suicide Bridge” since the 1930s because many people had leaped to end their lives. Since then, the city developed a Colorado Street Bridge Task Force to focus on preventing suicides.
In 2016, the city had installed a temporary anti-suicide barrier on the alcoves. However, the barrier didn’t work.
Three people jumped from the bridge in 2018, and eight people fell to their deaths in 2017, according to an article by Pasadena Weekly.
Shown on the Public Safety Committee meeting agenda on Sept. 16, the final mockups included three options with little variations:
Option A – curved lamp post treatments at alcoves with straight stainless steel mesh for the length of bridge
Option B – curved lamp post treatments at alcoves with curved stainless steel mesh for length of bridge
Option C – straight pickets at alcoves and length of bridge
While the city website is conducting a survey for the general public to choose the final design, the fate of a heritage with 103 years of history is also being determined by each click.
One of the main reasons that drive people to suicidal actions in the United States is depression. The LA Times interviewed the president of Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services, Kita Curry, on the topic of how to stop jumpers from leaping over the Colorado Street Bridge.
“People ask me how someone can contemplate suicide, I answer, mental illness is present in about 90% of all suicides,” said Curry.
According to Curry, patients with depression can vary from younger folks to adults, and the cause is dependent on the experiences and situation of each individual. Some common causes of mental illnesses are economic pressure and social connection. The syndromes of depression include feeling alone, ashamed, lost, unloved, and unworthy.
“It is my job to educate the public about suicide risk factors and warning signs and offer support groups for those who have attempted suicide and for those grieving the loss of a loved one. Even though the process might be difficult, but there’s a treatment for that,” said Curry.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 19.1% of U.S. adults experienced mental illness in 2018, which means 1 in 5 adults, but only 43.3% of them received treatment. It is clear to see the shortage of mental health care providers in California.
An example is the Kaiser Permanente Pasadena Medical: in 2019 a group of psychologists and healthcare workers protested in front of the office about a serious understaffing of the center. Due to the uneven ratio of staff and patients, some patients needed to wait 3 months for an appointment.
By the long period of waiting time, and without direct treatment, some symptoms might start to affect the daily lives, which eventually leads them to end the suffering themselves by suicide.
The USC AnnenbergMedia interviewed one of the protestors, Tanya Veluz, the therapist of Kaiser Permanent in Pasadena.
“Along with other 20 full-time therapists, the number of patients is about a thousand people,” said Veluz, “my co-workers and I have asked Permanente for 4 additional therapists, the response was: they cannot afford to hire anyone else.”
With the increasing rate of mental illness and suicide, it is important for healthcare workers and governmental organizations to be well-prepared and be supportive of the patients. However, in the current situation, rather than spending 5 million dollars on barriers, investing in public health seems to be a better option the city didn’t see.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255
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