Pardon me, but before you leap to your watery doom, would you mind filling out this questionnaire first?

It bothers me that the Golden GateBridge is the most popular suicide destination on the planet. But I can’t help thinking that as long as this is the case, we might as well learn something from it.

So here is my idea. We put kiosks on either end of the bridge and a few out in the middle. Inside the kiosks, we place questionnaires and pens. Outside the kiosks, we put signs politely asking potential jumpers to answer a few questions before they throw themselves off the bridge.

I know what you are thinking. That I am one sick and twisted individual. But let’s set that issue aside for the moment. I think there are some valuable things we can learn from this idea. Because I think each and every story might help us learn about the causes of suicide and maybe help other people in the future. But more than that, we will hopefully get some information from people who don’t end up jumping, stories of poignancy and hope.

The more I think about it, the more I come to believe that we should put the questionnaire online… make a website… because I bet there are lots of people who never make it to the bridge at all. There are statistics behind the bizarre popularity of this one particular location being used so often as a place to exit this world.

I want to know about the individual stories. Who traveled the farthest just to jump off the bridge? How long did they have to save up for a vacation they never planned to come back from? Don’t they have any nice, tall bridges where they came from? Why jumping instead of some other method?

And what about random chance, fate, luck?

Surely some people got to San Francisco and just fell in love with it. Or what if a guy flew all the way here from Australia, and while waiting for a taxi to go to the bridge, he met a girl, and now he doesn’t want to die, he wants to live forever… with her. How many people got into a minor traffic accident or got a flat tire on the way to the bridge and just gave up?

And what about people that are afraid of heights? I bet more than one person just chickened out. That is a long way down to that cold, dark water. Or how many people just didn’t realize how cold and windy it can get on the bridge and decided they just wanted a cup of coffee and maybe one of those sourdough bread bowls full of clam chowder you can get at Fisherman’s Wharf?

Do you see what I am getting at? For every person who jumps, there might be a thousand stories that didn’t end that way. Maybe the website will catch on and people will really open up about why they want to kill themselves. We have nothing to lose and much to gain.

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117 Responses to Pardon me, but before you leap to your watery doom, would you mind filling out this questionnaire first?

  1. Reblogged this on The View from a Drawbridge and commented:
    Since my blog entry, inspired this post by my friend Art, I thought it only fair that I repost his interesting and, as usual, unique thoughts. Enjoy!

  2. joehoover says:

    I’m from Eastbourne which also has a notorious suicide spot, Beachy Head. It’s quite a stunning location perched on the edge of the country with sea ahead of you. I imagine it has a certain attractiveness as a final parting point. But London has it’s fair share, we even named a bridge ‘suicide bridge’ in North London.

  3. Do you have the Samaritans in the US?

  4. hmmmm….. well…. a questionnaire might add too much red tape…
    and red tape is a lot of the reason people wanna jump to begin with.

  5. List of X says:

    If we expect the people who plan to commit suicide come to a kiosk and fill out a questionnaire about their reasons and their stories – why not put someone in the kiosk to try to talk them out of it?

  6. userdand says:

    About an attempted suicide on the Skyway bridge over Tampa Bay. A very excellent listen from the survivor. If you can’t/won’t listen to the others, this is THE ONE to hear. Includes photot (not a rescue photo, no gore) of the survivor and back-story. PLEASE DO LISTEN. I did not find it depressing or leaving me feeling hopeless.

    Below is a snippet from about the inspiration and production of “Splash” and other audio stories by Rich Halten.
    Q2. It looks like it takes 6-8 months to put together an audio story. How does that break down between dreaming up a story, planning, recording and editing?

    Halten: Well, all I can say is it takes as long as it takes. For example, the piece called “Splash” that was featured on the Transom site. The inspiration came in 2007 when a chum from college told me about a mutual friend who was murdered by his ex-wife. She then drove to The Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay, jumped and survived. I’d seen plenty of coverage of people who died jumping from that bridge, but little about those who leaped and lived to tell about it. That got me started trying to track down a small group of survivors. Zero results. I finally found one guy who would tell his story. Fortunately he told it brilliantly and with nothing held back. Then it was contacting and recording counterpoints to his story in the form of people who deal with Skyway Bridge jumpers — fire/rescue EMT’s, suicide hotline counselors and a guy who publishes a web site chronicling jumps from the bridge. Working off and on — including editing and mixing — it took three years from the initial idea to finished product.

    Other stories take far less time, so there’s no real time frame to produce one.

    This is an NPR broadcast about Golden Gate survivors:

    This is an NPR broadcast about The Aurora bridge in Seattle. Number 2 in the nation for suicides.

  7. elroyjones says:

    I’m leaping right now!

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