by Cynthia M. Braden
This morning, I was asked to comment for a KFI radio news item (AM 640 in Los Angeles) on the signs being posted at the entrances to the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena. Signs are an effort to improve suicide prevention at that location.
Jo, the reporter wanted to know if I thought the signs were a good idea or if I thought it was being done too late, or something different should be done.
Here's the LA Times story:
What I wanted to say is that the signs need to convince the person who is about to jump, that someone really does care about him or her, and that someone will help them until their lives get better.
Oftentimes. people who try to commit suicide have already been in different kinds of treatment. They may have attempted suicide before. They may have been to psychiatrists and medical doctors and therapists and pharmacies. They have gotten hopeless because their lives just don't seem to be getting better in spite of all the treatment. Or that they can't afford treatment, or feel like they don't have access.
Most of the time, suicide attempters simply feel that nobody cares if they live or die. Or that their life and relationships are so frustrating or non-existent that it's just too much trouble to continue on. Sometimes they are facing legal or financial situations that seem completely hopeless.
If the signs want to convince a person that life is truly worth living. I hope a trained, live person answers the telephone number on that sign, and has the funding to offer substantial, longer-term help. I hope programs are in place to help people get back on track with lives that have gotten out of control.
Unfortunately, I know from experience that this is most often not the case. Most often chronically mentally ill people have nowhere to go, and end up on the streets. If we save people from jumping... keep them alive... that's fine, but how are we going to help this person improve his quality of life, and truly change things so he can be happy and functioning well within family and society?
Simply keeping people from jumping, so that we can feel better, while they're sleeping under the bridge instead of jumping off of it, is not a great solution.