For some, bridge to an end

September 11, 2012 Denise Romano
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As beautiful as the Verrazano Bridge may be, it does have tragic connotations for some.

According to data compiled by the Metropolitan Bridge and Tunnel Authority, there have been eight incidents of jumpers on the expanse since the beginning of the year. There were attempts on April 4, May 1, July 1 and July 23 and four confirmed jumpers on January 2, May 20, June 8 and June 28.

“In response to the incidents this year, Bridges and Tunnels have increased patrols, and improved signs on the bridge letting people know that hotline phones that link to mental health professionals are available,” explained Judie Glave, a spokesperson for the MBTA, adding that the agency does not track suicide numbers on an annual basis.

“In addition, Bridges and Tunnels has joined a task force with other area agencies, including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, to see if there are other measures that can be taken,” Glave added.

According Dr. James Wolberg, vice chairperson of the Department of Psychiatry at Lutheran Medical Center, suicide numbers nationwide are “terribly high” at about 80 to 100 per day and 30,000 annually. “That’s equivalent to a fully loaded 747 jumbo jet crashing every five days with no survivors,” Wolberg said. “People are more likely to kill themselves than to be killed by anyone else.”

Wolberg explained that there are many factors that would lead to suicide.

“Someone who wants to jump off a bridge is suffering from a very severe… condition or altered state. People [may] feel absolutely overwhelmed by a sense that whatever their problem may be, it is interminable, intolerable or inescapable,” he said.

Wolberg did attribute increased suicide numbers to the economy. “As far as my own perspective as a clinician here in Brooklyn, patients after a suicide attempt have experienced long rates of unemployment and the loss of their home is the last straw. They can’t imagine any possibility of things improving,” he explained.

Wolberg noted that people don’t always commit suicide due to depression. “They may be in…an overwhelming out-of-their-experience crisis where they…could not see any other way out,” he said.

Wolberg said that another factor that often leads to suicide is impulsiveness. “[They may] feel absolute public humiliation – total shame as if some deep, dark secret is about to be found out,” he said.

The death of a loved one could also bring up thoughts of suicide. “It’s not uncommon for a survivor [to feel that he or she] cannot go on without that person,” Wolberg said, adding that the feelings are worse if the death is of a spouse or child.

Wolberg also noted that it is more common for women to make suicide attempts, but it is more likely for a man to actually commit suicide. All jumpers and attempted jumpers on the Verrazano Bridge so far this year were male.

“Anyone who is actually driving over bridges and looking and thinking where the spot is to do it, is someone at grave imminent risk,” Wolberg said. “If the person themself is reading this article, they should know that there is something else that they may not be able to imagine, but can restore hope and make them see that there is another solution to the problem.”

Wolberg urged anyone with suicidal thoughts, or who needs any kind of help, to call 1-800-LIFE-NET.

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