Golden Gate Bridge’s Suicide Deterrent Net Nears Completion: A Symbol of Hope and Second Chances

The Golden Gate Bridge suicide safety net is seen in San Francisco on April 5, 2023. (Courtesy Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District)

After years of contentious debate and planning, the Golden Gate Bridge is on the brink of a significant transformation with the nearing completion of a suicide safety net, a project aimed at saving lives on one of the world’s most iconic structures.

On a fog-enshrouded day in September 2000, Kevin Hines, battling intense depression, jumped off the bridge. Miraculously surviving the 220-foot fall, Hines expressed an immediate regret for his action, a sentiment echoed by many who have been in similar situations. “All I wanted to do was live,” Hines recounted to CNN, emphasizing the instinctual will to survive that overtook him during the fall.

in the years since surviving his fall, Kevin Hines has been traveling the world to share his rare testimony. CNN

Hines, one of only 39 known survivors of the bridge’s deadly leap since its opening in 1937, has since become an advocate for mental health and suicide prevention. His story and those of others have significantly fueled the push for a safety deterrent on the bridge.

The project, which began in 2018, involves installing a stainless steel net extending 20 feet below the sidewalk on both sides of the 1.7-mile-long bridge. With an estimated cost of US$217 million, the net spans an area equivalent to seven football fields, according to Paolo Cosulich-Schwartz, a spokesperson for the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mental health advocate Kevin Berthia, who has survived his own suicide attempts, poses in 2021 in Sacramento, California. Rich Pedroncelli/AP

Kevin Berthia, another survivor who contemplated jumping in 2005, shared with CNN how a physical barrier might have altered his thoughts that day. “If I saw a deterrent, I would have probably been like, ‘OK, maybe this is not meant to be,’” Berthia said, underscoring the need for visible signs of care and hope for those in despair.

The construction of this net, currently 80% complete and expected to be finished in December, represents not just a safety measure but also a symbol of societal concern and care. Research supports the effectiveness of such physical barriers; a 1978 study found that over 90% of individuals who were stopped from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge did not go on to commit suicide later.

The Golden Gate Bridge. DeAgostini/Getty Images

The journey towards this deterrent has been arduous. Suicide prevention groups and nonprofits like the Bridge Rail Foundation have been advocating for such measures for years. Initial proposals, like raising the rail, met resistance due to concerns over preserving the bridge’s aesthetic. The final design, however, maintains the bridge’s iconic views while offering a lifesaving barrier.

This development holds a significant promise of reducing suicides, offering a tangible sign of hope to those contemplating a tragic end. “I’m so grateful that not one more beautiful person with loved ones, and family and friends who care for them is ever again, gonna die by their hands off of the Golden Gate Bridge,” Hines expressed, reflecting a sentiment of relief and hope that resonates with many.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, here are some resources that are available:

  • Canada Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-833-456-4566
  • Centre for Addiction and Mental Health: 1-800-463-2338
  • Crisis Services Canada: 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645
  • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868

For immediate assistance, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital.