San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge receives over 10 million visits a year and is one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks. The 1.7-mile-long suspension bridge has stood as a symbol of world-class engineering since its construction in 1933. However, the landmark also holds devastating significance for many people whose lives have been touched by suicide. An estimated 2,000 people have jumped to their deaths from the bridge since it was built, averaging about 30 or more per year.
After decades of planning, nearly 7 years of construction, and more than $215 million, the Golden Gate Bridge’s suicide deterrent net is almost finished. It hit about 80% completion in September 2023.
The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District refers to the net as a “Suicide Deterrent System” or “Safety Net.” It’s installed about twenty feet down from the sidewalk and extends twenty feet out, held up by support struts every 50 feet. The net is made from stainless steel in order to withstand the Bay winds and weather. “Jumping into the Net will result in significant bruises, sprains and possibly broken bones,” according to the website. This barrier is a significant change — up until this point, the bridge’s only physical suicide deterrent was a 4-foot-tall railing.
As the SF Standard reported in August, the new suicide net has already discouraged some jumpers just by its mere presence. After 30-40 suicides per year from 2000-2019, the number went down to 22 in 2022 and 13 confirmed so far in 2023.
Critics of the net often say that it won’t to stop someone who wants to end their life, but proponents of the net say this is a misconception. A 1978 study of Golden Gate Bridge suicides found that 90% of people who were stopped from jumping did not later die by suicide or violence. Suicide barriers have shown great success around the world.
Denis Mulligan is the General Manager and CEO of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. He maintains that although the net is not a 100% effective solution, it’s a worthy endeavor. “If we save 30 lives a year, and not 31, it’s worth it for those 30 people who we saved,” Mulligan told the New York Times.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to reach the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or visit 988lifeline.org.