Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Turning Tragedy into Hope: International Survivors of Suicide Day

November 23, 2013 is recognized as International Survivors of Suicide Day. Each year, survivors from all over the world gather for various events and commemorations to find comfort and connect with others who share the same experience. In the third and final part of’s series on suicide awareness and prevention, we’d like to honor suicide survivors by continuing the discussion and raising the awareness, in the hopes of reaching and helping those who have been affected by suicide.

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Perhaps the most recognizable icon for Coronado is the San Diego – Coronado Bay Bridge. But since its opening in 1969, is has become the third deadliest bridge in the United States. While it is impossible to know exact figures on how many suicides have occurred and how frequently they occur, is has been reported that more than 250 suicides have occurred since the bridge’s opening. Over the years, there has been big discussion among residents over how to address making the bridge safer and decrease or prevent suicides from it all together, from lighting the bridge to constructing a higher wall.

The bridge actually falls under the jurisdiction of California Highway Patrol, not the city of Coronado, as it’s a state highway (State Route 75).The wall on either side of the bridge is 34 inches or less than 3 feet in height, which is shorter than many pre-schoolers, which raises the question of its safety regardless of the bridge’s suicide rate.

Potential bridge jumpers can also cause a logistical problem for other motorists who are traveling to and from the island. At times, all inbound and outbound lanes will close, stranding motorists.

So, what can be done? What should be done? And would it even help? It’s been debated that those who are contemplating suicide from the bridge and were stopped would seek out another method, but experts say that’s not always the case. Studies show that many people who are stopped from suicide are grateful that someone intervened and oftentimes they end up getting help. They don’t always seek out another way.

Messages of Hope

The San Diego Unified Port board has been discussing a bridge lighting plan that is hoped to be completed by 2015. The project will cost roughly $8 million to complete and is proposed to include interactive lighting. South Korea’s Mapo Bridge in Seoul took a similar approach in lighting the bridge, which also has a high suicide rate. Specially-equipped railings were installed with interactive lighting that display messages of hope as passersby approach. The railings, using LED lights and motion sensors, illuminate with messages such as “The best moments in life are yet to come” and “Just go and see the person you miss.” Since the completion of the project in September 2012, the suicide rate on the Mapo Bridge, which has been renamed as “The Bridge of Life” has declined by 77 percent.

“When someone is on the bridge contemplating suicide, every second matters,” says Melissa d’Arabian, who has been active in raising the awareness for suicide prevention after losing her mom to suicide in 1989.

“It takes roughly 2 ½ seconds for someone to jump from the bridge. That’s not a lot of time to intervene. If we can buy an extra 30 seconds, it could help save a life.”

But it doesn’t have to take such a high-tech approach to make a difference. Even installing signs along the wall of the Coronado Bridge, especially next to the currently installed signs that display the crisis hotline number, can make a difference, according to d’Arabian.

“An extra 30 seconds to read a message of hope can cause someone to rethink their decision. It can cause them to rethink their life,” she says.

Portland, Oregon’s Vista Bridge, which has been the site more than 175 suicides, recently started employing bridge volunteers, who undergo crisis training, to talk with people on the bridge who are contemplating suicide. The Friends of Vista Bridge is composed of 20 volunteers.

Share Your Feedback

Every 40 seconds, someone in the world dies by suicide. And for those who are left in the tragic wake to make sense of it, it’s an incredibly devastating and uncertain time. Let us continue the discussion. What do you think would make a difference locally? Share your ideas in the comments below.

If you or someone you know is suffering, please contact the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). For more information on International Survivors of Suicide Day, visit

This story is the final part in a series discussing suicide prevention and awareness. To view them all, click here.

Mary Douglas

Staff Writer

Have a story you want to share? Contact us.

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