FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 13, 2017 – Vancouver, BC
The Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention Centre of BC, accredited by the American Association of Suicidology, continues to support the installation of suicide prevention barriers on the Burrard, Granville, Ironworkers, Lions Gate and Pattullo bridges as recommended in the BC Coroner’s Service recommendation in 2008. These sites accounted for 50 per cent of suicide deaths from jumping between 1991 and 2007.
“We thank Delta Police Chief Neil Dubord and New Westminster Police Chief Const. Dave Jones for their leadership in advocating for barriers to be installed on the Alex Fraser Bridge and the replacement Pattullo Bridge”, says Sandy Biggerstaff, Crisis Centre’s Executive Director.
“There is research that shows that suicide barriers are effective in creating immediate safety and preventing suicides” says Sandy Biggerstaff, Crisis Centre’s Executive Director. “In almost all situations studied, there is no displacement to other means or locations. Reducing access to lethal means of self-harm for a person at risk of suicide is an important part of a comprehensive approach to suicide prevention.”
The 1978 longitudinal study of those restrained from jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge showed that over more than 26 years, 94% were alive or had died from natural causes.
Catherine Barber from the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center explains why suicide means prevention is so important: “Delays are incredibly helpful in suicide prevention. Many people who become suicidal are only acutely suicidal for relatively short periods–sometimes a matter of minutes or hours, sometimes days. Rarely is a person acutely suicidal for weeks at a time. Some people hit a short period only once in their lives, some people go through multiple periods because of underlying issues such as a drug problem or mental health problem. A key step to prevent suicide, then, is to make it difficult for a person to have access to the most highly lethal methods during these short-term acute suicidal crises.”
“Then-28-year-old Ken Baldwin chose to hurdle over the bridge’s railing rather than stand on it first because he didn’t want to lose his courage to jump. Although he was severely depressed on that day in 1985, he changed his mind the moment after his leap. ‘I instantly realized that everything in my life that I’d thought was unfixable was totally fixable — except for having just jumped’ he said.”
Biggerstaff continues, “Suicides in British Columbia cost $226M for poisoning methods and $184M for all other suicide and self-harm methods to society each year in emergency services required and the future earnings lost and potential years of life lost. While we can quantify the costs to society each year, it is impossible to fully capture the emotional impact and devastation on families and friends when a loved one dies by suicide. Where The Province’s Gordon Clark roughly estimated the cost of installing barriers on all recommended bridges to be $42M, the means restriction should contribute to reducing the incidence rate of suicide in British Columbia and therefore reduce the annual direct and indirect costs to society.”
Burrard Bridge marks the third Lower Mainland bridge to have physical barriers installed following the Second Narrows and Golden Ears bridges. On average, there has been at least one death from the Burrard Bridge every year. This only includes cases where suicide intention was confirmed. It is estimated that there are 5-25% more suicides that are unreported or unconfirmed. This also doesn’t account for the number of suicide attempts from this location. Over the span of a year, 17 VPD calls were logged as a suicidal individual at the Burrard Bridge alone.
Jumping off a bridge is one of the most lethal means of suicide attempts. Barber states “many other suicide methods have intrinsically high failure rates or allow the attempter a window of opportunity to back out mid-attempt.”2 Numerous studies have followed individuals who have made one suicide attempt over time to determine what proportion eventually go on over a course of multiple years to die by suicide. Most studies find fewer than 10% go on to eventually die by suicide.
Since the crisis phones were activated on Burrard Bridge at the beginning of March, we have heard from at least four individuals through our 24/7 crisis support services who had the intention of jumping from that location. All four who saw the barriers installed and the crisis phones now available on the bridge were able to reach out for help.
Suicide prevention barriers are a permanent measure that will continue to prevent numerous suicides every year for decades. Suicide prevention barriers remain to be the most effective tool at preventing suicide.
While the Lions Gate Bridge and Alex Fraser Bridge are unable to withstand barriers due to wind load, we are hopeful that with new innovations in suicide prevention barrier technology that options will soon be available. The second best option is the installation of crisis phones on all remaining bridges. We will continue to work with our Crisis Centre partners, the Ministry of Transportation and Municipalities to make this a reality.
Most importantly, we want to clarify the common misconception that “those motivated to kill themselves will eventually do it.”5 Fortunately, the research and decades of crisis intervention and suicide prevention programming shows that lives can be saved.
Losing loved ones to suicide is devastating and we will continue to provide services to those struggling and advocate for the most effective suicide prevention infrastructure to be in place.
How You Can Help
- If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, call us 24 hours a day: 1-800-SUICIDE
- The Crisis Centre relies on the community to fund 75% of our programming. You can donate online at www.crisiscentre.bc.ca
- Volunteering at the Crisis Centre is a great way to make a contribution to your community. Our vital programs could not exist without our team of more than 450 volunteers. www.crisiscentre.bc.ca/volunteer
- Look out for details to join us around September 10 for World Suicide Prevention Day activities in the Lower Mainland
- Learn how to recognize someone who may be suicidal and how to reach out to them through one of our internationally-renowned training programs: www.crisiscentre.bc.ca/training
Statistics on Suicide
- In BC, about 500 people die by suicide every year. That’s more than one death every day.
- Studies show that up to 90% of people who take their own lives have depression, substance use problems or another mental illness—whether diagnosed or not—at the time of their suicide.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people in BC, Canada and worldwide.
- In the last 45 years, suicide rates have increased by 60% worldwide.
- A majority of suicides are preventable.
- Help is available 24 hours a day for suicidal individuals. Call 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) anywhere from BC.
Crisis Centre Services Available
24 Hour Phone Services
Greater Vancouver Regional Distress Line: 604.872.3311
Provincial 1-800-SUICIDE Priority Line: 1.800.784.2433
Training Opportunities for Community Members and Service Providers
www.crisiscentre.bc.ca or 604.872.1811
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Kyle Tiney, CFRE
Director, Development and Communications
Phone: 604.872.1811 ext. 225 | 778.846.9493
 Memo from Catherine Barber to Members of the Department of Transportation, “Bridge Barriers for Suicide Prevention.” November 23, 2010.