Tuesday, 14 February 2012

If we don't build it, it can't work

A recent study reported in a British Psychiatric Journal found that the barrier erected on the Bloor Street Viaduct in Toronto eliminated death by suicide from jumping off that bridge, but total suicide deaths by jumping did not significantly decrease after the barrier was built. 

So here we have a quandary. The bridge barrier was 100 percent effective in stopping suicide deaths by jumping from the bridge. But the total number of suicide deaths by jumping did not decrease. The bridge effect was off-set by jumping elsewhere.

What does this tell us? Does it mean we should not erect suicide barriers on bridges? Not at all. Barriers are 100 percent effective! What this means is that we need to erect barriers on all bridges. So here is what we need to do. We have to ensure that whenever a bridge is built from now on, it is designed in such as way as to prevent people from jumping off. Will that cost a bit more – maybe. Will it be worth it in the long run – probably. Should we do that – for sure.

This also tells us that there is no simple quick fix in suicide prevention. We need to apply many different approaches, and we need to ensure that the approaches that we apply actually work. So this article is good in that respect. Bridge barriers work at the site where they are erected. They do not work if they are not built. So lets get with the plan and build bridges that include barriers. And lets get on with doing some other things that we know work – such as training doctors and nurses to identify and treat people who are suicidal. And lets start evaluating things that might work but we do not know for sure if they do!

Will we be able to prevent all suicides? Maybe not. Will we be able to prevent more than we are now – most likely. Lets get on with it.


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