My mother recently sold her house in Little Compton; the former snow bird is now a full-time Floridian. My last blood relation has left The Ocean State. It’s only a mater of time before Lola and I relocate to Austin. So I was feeling wistful driving back from LC to Providence carrying mementos of 43 summers by the sea. As I crossed the Braga Bridge out of Fall River, I noticed that work crews were putting the finishing touch on the span’s refurbishment: suicide barriers. The fences look well-designed for the job. Saying that . . .

If one possessed a bit of ingenuity, an aspiring bridge jumper could throw a CMI steel grappling hook over the top of the suicide barrier, hoist themselves up, lift themselves over and say goodbye to this cruel, cruel world. They’d need to be strong, quick and determined, but it could be done.

Perhaps people who are concerned about Braga Bridge jumpers must now consider banning grappling hooks. Or maybe just “Saturday night special” grappling hooks like the Black Ninja Folding Grappling Hook W/ 33 Foot Rope. Yours for $19.95 from Amazon with Free Super Shaver Shipping for qualified customers.

I’m only half joking. Why should the government spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in U.S. tax money to prevent people from jumping to their deaths from the Braga Bridge? Couldn’t some poor soul look at the barriers from, say, the bottom of the bridge, think “nope, too difficult,” and shoot themselves in the head?

Ah yes, guns. Gun control advocates would have you believe that “easy access to guns” enables suicides. Restricting firearm sales would supposedly prevent at least some suicides. If one life is saved . . .

It won’t be. International suicide statistics prove conclusively that firearms are not a key variable. Japan, where the government bans civilian gun ownership, ranks seventh. China ranks ninth. And so on. The “gun happy” United States ranks 38th, below gun control intensive Sweden, Norway and Ireland.

So why spend time, effort and money trying to restrict access to the means of suicide? Common sense tells us that there are plenty of ways to kill yourself on a public highway. A family friend jumped off an overpass into traffic. A classmate drove his motorcycle straight into a truck.

Common sense tells us that the best way to prevent suicide: look out for people in distress and intervene whenever and wherever possible. Improve our mental health care services so the pros can do the same.

Meanwhile, and here’s the big one, there’s nothing wrong with shrugging our shoulders and just living with it. “It” being the possibility of suicide by bridge, gun, knife or whatever.

Of course, that’s not politically correct. Political correctness demands that we, as a society, should be seen to be doing something. More to the point, guns are inherently deadly and should be banned from “high risk” individuals and suicides should not be seen in places where we can see them. streetsights.org puts that one in perspective . . .

Let’s face it, nobody wants to think about the issue of suicide, specially around the holidays. But the Providence Place Mall has become the City’s Mecca for suicides, the place of choice for many distraught people. There have been approximately 7 completed suicides there (not counting the unsuccessful attempts) . . .

Studies have shown that barriers deter the imminence of an attempt, but barriers also minimize future attempts by the person thus deterred (the Braga bridge in Fall River, Massachusetts, has such a barrier).

Citation? Studies have shown that people who say studies have shown without showing their source (to allow independent thinkers to check the methodology) are using language to paper over serious issues with their logic.

Is Francisco Gonzalez seriously suggesting that people who are suicidal give up if they’re frustrated by suicide prevention architecture? In the same way that gun control advocates maintain that eliminating “easy access” to guns stops suicides? He is. And his solutions make almost as much sense as banning people taking anti-depressants from firearms ownership.

Most depressed individuals arrive at that precipice of life with great ambivalence: that dynamic can work in our favor by limiting public access (locking doors after hours), raising railing height (fencing off precipitous jump-spots), and posting suicide prevention signs (Samaritans [272-4044] and Lifeline [800-273-8255]).

Francisco’s last suggestion has merit. Society needs to talk about mental health issues, and let people in crisis know that they have options, and post contact info at places where suicidal people may be planning to take their life. Gun ranges, for example, should have these same signs (by their own volition, I might add).

Putting up barriers to gun ownership or suicide “jump-spots” is a way to pretend that we care. To salve our conscience even as we do nothing substantive to address the serious issues surrounding mental health. They’re a waste of time, effort and money. As anyone who’s seen 53 summers come and go knows, we have precious little of those to spare.

26 Responses to Random Thoughts About the Braga Bridge, Suicide and Gun Control

  1. As for suicide prevention. Why? In a free nation shouldn’t people be allowed to decide when they want to go. Life ain’t easy and forcing people to stay and endure it seems unkind.

    In my case I have a very strong sense of self preservation. I don’t foresee a time when self inflicted death would be appealing to me but that’s just my current opinion.

    • Robert I agree with you 100 percent. Here in the Bay Area Bart spent a whole bunch of money putting up barriers to prevent people from jumping in front of trains yet on Tuesday we had someone jumping from a train on the road I take to work. The barriers where useless. On a footnote when I drove home that afternoon there was a protester there pro testing Bart and demanding for the end of Bart to prevent suicides. Just like the anti-gun group thinking.

      • Ending BART to prevent suicides? So then that many more people have to drive or take a bus? Hell, that outcome would cause a spat of suicides all on its own.

    • This. So many people think life in and of itself is a worthy objective. They completely ignore the concept of quality of life. Only you can determine if your life is worth continuing, and no one else has the right to force you to keep living a miserable life.

  2. I left RI in 2009. Your only regret will be that you didn’t do it years before. RI is a poster-child for the “Blue State” model (Democrat / Progressive / collectivist model) of high taxes, expansive welfare / permanent underclass / middle-class erosion, anti-business attitude and economic decline bringing with it long-term declines in average standards of living. The potholed roads being but a symbolic manifestation of the self-indiced decline.

    Alas, this last election means that the Democrat-Progressive “Blue State” model is going to be imposed from Washington, D.C. across our entire land, meaning that this country (like Argentina and Great Britain before it) is now going into permanent decline. But you’ll enjoy some respite, for a while, in Texas which is not yet as far “advanced” as the Northeast states.

  3. Wouldn’t it be better for a suicide to jump from a bridge or use a firearm than say, drive the wrong way on a freeway?
    Not to make light of it but, a determined person WILL end their life, it would be nice if no bystanders were taken with them.

  4. Fences are to prevent the Coast Guard or police from having to fish bodies out of the river. It isn’t even about pretending to care. Plus, some politicians’ brother’s construction firm gets a new contract. It’s a win-win.

  5. We won’t be going as far, or the same direction, but the wife and I are planning our escape from Rhode Island as well. It’s a ways off, but hopefully we can get out before things really tank. The Big Blue Gator has this state firmly in its grasp, and the spin just keeps getting quicker.

  6. How much does it cost to fish a body out of the water? I suspect not all that many to prove to be cost effective.

    “Common sense tells us that the best way to prevent suicide: look out for people in distress and intervene whenever and wherever possible. Improve our mental health care services so the pros can do the same.”

    That’s what we need. The pros who tell us who to drag into the local mental heath facility.

    No thanks.

  7. I escaped Rhode Island and ended up in Massachusetts. I think my aim wasw off by juuuuuust a bit.

    I had a friend in FL who hung himself from a hook in his bathroom using a wire coat hangar. I can’t imagine a worse way to go. It shows that people who want to end their life will find a way to do it.

    I could see it coming a tried to intervene. I offered him a place to say for an unlimited duration, free transpo, room and board, and a fresh start. No dice. Once someone’s made up their mind, intervention won’t always work any better than suicide barriers.

  8. I wish I knew the answer to suicide prevention. It’s a major issue in the Army right now, by October 31st we already exceeded 2011’s record number of suicides. I do know that barriers like the ones on the Braga Bridge (I wonder if you jumped off the side of the bridge facing Battleship Cove if you could land on the Massachusetts) aren’t going to stop someone who really wants to kill himself.

    I miss RI, the four seasons, the ocean, the seafood, long runs in Lincoln Woods, and being able to visit places the folks like Roger Williams, John Adams, and George Washington visited. (They look at you like a nut around here if you ask where you can buy Quahogs or Gaspar’s Linguica.) I grew up in Lincoln, learned to shoot a .22 at Camp Yagoog, and that’s all she wrote, I was a gun lover. I took the Hunters’ Safety Course at Lincoln High, and won a free NRA Membership for having the highest score on the final exam.

    I’m glad I decided to settle in Texas, but a word of warning Robert….Austin is a little piece of RI politics right smack in the middle of Texas. Nice place to visit (and work), but I wouldn’t want to live there. Take a look at living in Williamson County (Cedar Park, Leander, Georgetown). We’ve got better schools, lower taxes, and more personal freedom. You can hop on 183 or take the train and be downtown in 30 minutes.

  9. I really wish random comments didn’t get deleted with no notice. At least two people specifically thanked me for my direction to gravatar, so I’m not real sure why it got hit with the heavy-handed edit button.

  10. I would think that the fences on an overpass are to protect the traffic under the bridge from falling bodies.

    People will end their lives in any way they can find, but a body falling into rush hour traffic can end up with more than one life lost.

  11. That’s a really tricky post, Robert. I see what you did. All your supporters probably didn’t even notice in their zeal to agree.

    You started out with the over-riding idea of “gun restrictions are wrong,” and worked backwards to the suicide prevention barriers. The post reversed that order. Your bias is so great that you yourself didn’t notice that when you said “look out for people in distress and intervene whenever and wherever possible,” that would include disarming them. Having come full circle in your essay, we all agree, suicidal people should be disarmed and they should have the benefit of suicide-prevention barriers in all the appropriate places.

    • You and I have a different idea of “intervention.” Here’s the bit where I define the term:

      Society needs to talk about mental health issues, and let people in crisis know that they have options, and post contact info at places where suicidal people may be planning to take their life.

  12. I suspect the suicide prevention barriers are not so much to keep people from killing themselves as they are to keep people from killing themselves from that particular bridge. I know if I owned a bridge the last thing I’d need was a bunch of grieving relatives with a litigious streak.

  13. Nailed it!

    Just like with airport security it’s a form of theater. We put on the show of what our priorities are and pretend that we really care.

    Really care about airport security? No carry-on anything. You get headphones and the airline provides the little headrest TV’s for the flight. Poof! Security. But that requires inconveniencing people.

    Really care about suicide prevention? Fund the mental health system in this country so that people in need of help can get it. Further, find ways to remove the stigma of mental health care when people truly need it. Of course, then we’d all have to face the skeletons in the closet of our friends and family… but that’s the only way to really do it.

    Great article, great topic.

  14. Like many people, I have sufficient medication on hand to kill myself quite effectively. What are the padded-cell proponents going to do, make me check out my pills daily to make sure I can’t off myself with them?

    I do think that we should tell people how to end their lives quickly, relatively painlessly, and with no physical harm to others. Trying to cut off easy, effective suicide just condemns people to horrible, slow, painful ways to die.

    I support resources to help people with whatever pain (physical, emotional, whatever) they are suffering that makes them want to kill themselves, but taking away the means is just cruel.

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