Letter: Suicide prevention barriers on bridges save lives

Posted 11/14/19

To the editor:

As a lifelong East Bay resident, I have always enjoyed the beauty of Narragansett Bay. But behind this cozy New England life, the beauty is often marred by the sound of helicopters …

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Letter: Suicide prevention barriers on bridges save lives

Posted

To the editor:

As a lifelong East Bay resident, I have always enjoyed the beauty of Narragansett Bay. But behind this cozy New England life, the beauty is often marred by the sound of helicopters flying overhead and sirens heading toward the Mt. Hope Bridge and eventual traffic backup as a result of another jumper ending his or her life by climbing over a 35-inch rail and plunging to their death 135 feet below. 

This past year alone and in multiple years before, there have been numerous deaths and attempts from our state’s unprotected bridges including the Pell, Jamestown and Sakonnet bridges.

Three years ago, after witnessing a jumper from the Mt. Hope Bridge, Aquidneck Island resident Melissa Cotta and I co-founded Bridging the Gap for Safety and Healing. Our message is simple, “Suicide Prevention Barriers Save Lives.”

As a volunteer for The Samaritans since 1981, 38 years of training and suicide prevention work prepares you to deal with any situation. In those years, I have befriended scores of depressed, suicidal and grieving individuals and families. I have seen first-hand the pain of survivors who have lost a loved one to suicide (by numerous means including falls from the bridges) on family members, friends and co-workers. This includes my own family. A bridge with a 135-foot drop and a three-foot rail is like giving a suicidal person a loaded gun. We need to take away the gun.

The Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority (RITBA), working with The Samaritans, municipal first responders, hospitals and social service agencies have done a good job partnering to raise awareness, training and provide mutual support but the time has come to make our bridges safer with the installation of suicide prevention/pedestrian protection barriers on all four of our iconic bridges over Narragansett Bay.

A suicide prevention barrier is not only a practical solution toward ending these senseless tragedies but would also serve as a symbol to those who may be contemplating suicide. For a hundred reasons, including not having enough access to care to meet the needs of our state’s residents, barriers may never end the overall suicide rate in the state, but I look at it this way. If bridges can serve as a symbol of the Ocean State’s beauty for tourism, then barriers can serve as symbol that we care about those contemplating suicide as well as their families and caregivers.

More often than not, people die by suicide in so many ways that we cannot predict or control. But installing suicide prevention barriers on the bridges is something we can control and we can actively do.

The time to act is now and I respectfully request in the upcoming session of the General Assembly, that our state legislature, working with RITBA, create a fully funded commission to study the feasibility of installing barriers on our state’s major bridges.

Our state motto is “Hope.” It is time make “hope” a reality and suicide from Rhode Island’s bridges a thing of the past.

Bryan Ganley

7 Prenda Lane

Bristol

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.