suicide jumper articles
links could be broken at any time. (our comments follow)
|05.25.18: How a Public Suicide Harms the People Who See It|
05.25.18, theatlantic.com, For unwitting bystanders, the experience can be traumatic.
One evening last March, Nancy Bacon saw a stranger die. She had just touched down in Toronto and set off for a business meeting, chatting on her phone as she navigated the rush-hour traffic of the financial district. She was jaywalking, hurrying across a particularly busy street, when a fire extinguisher seemed to fall from the sky, smashing to the ground just a few feet away from her.
“I was actually annoyed,” she says. Her first thought was that some mischievous kid had thrown the extinguisher through a window high above. But when she lifted her gaze, Bacon’s annoyance turned to horror. What she witnessed next would haunt her for months. “I saw the guy falling,” she says. “I saw him hit the ground.”
Bacon looked on as the police arrived and attempted CPR. She noticed that the man’s shoe had come off.
A suicide can be dangerous to those closest to the victim, leaving family and friends vulnerable to depression and self-harm. When the act is committed in public, any incidental observers are left to grapple with it, too. While studies on witnessing strangers’ suicide are scarce, a small body of research—alongside a larger body of anecdotes—has begun to show that the experience can be damaging, even traumatic.
Each year in the United States, approximately 45,000 people kill themselves. There’s little data on how many of these suicides occur in public view, and even less on how many people witness them when they do. One study analyzed all completed suicides in Riverside County, California, from 1998 to 2001, and estimated that around 17 percent took place in public places, like roads, railways, and fields. Another study, from 1994, reviewed forensic reports of 1,183 suicides among people affiliated with the U.S. Air Force and found that 4 percent were committed in the presence of at least one other person.
Ashley Tate Hatton was studying for her Ph.D. at the California School of Professional Psychology when she saw the controversial documentary The Bridge, about people who leap from San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Watching the victims fall—even on camera—Hatton felt queasy, complicit. When it came time to choose a subject for her dissertation, she decided to study the effects of witnessing suicide in real life. She posted ads around campus and online, and to her surprise, soon found a small group of people who had seen strangers take (or attempt to take) their own lives.
“I thought it was a long shot,” she says. She hadn’t realized how common an experience it was. “I didn’t have to travel outside of Southern California—I was prepared for that.”
Three of Hatton’s subjects had seen people jump from bridges, three from a building; two had seen people shoot themselves; three had seen people step in front of vehicles. One of the subjects, a man in his 50s, was waiting for a bus when a young man threw himself in the path of an oncoming van. For the next several days, the onlooker thought about it constantly. He became obsessed with the precariousness of life, and told Hatton that he began to feel as though “every second could be [his] last.” When she met him three years later, she found that he no longer ruminated incessantly about the memory, but he still dreamed about it from time to time. He told her he had become a more cautious driver; he worried about running someone over.
All but one of Hatton’s subjects said that they considered the experience traumatic, and one, according to Hatton, met the criteria for chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. (Those who had been more involved—who had called 911 or tried to talk the victim down from the ledge—tended to be more affected.) Nine of the 10 said that pictures about the event popped into their minds; six admitted they thought about it without meaning to; three had physical reactions when they were reminded of the event, including sweating, nausea, and trouble breathing. Eight said that the experience had a significant impact on their lives, including one who started volunteering at the Red Cross, and two who resolved not to act on their own suicidal fantasies.
Hatton’s sample was small, and people who would sign up for her study were probably more shaken than average. “When you have only a few people who experienced something, you have no idea how representative they are,” points out George Bonanno, a professor of clinical psychology and the director of the Loss, Trauma, and Emotion Lab at Columbia University. Still, projects like Hatton’s are a start. “There’s surprisingly little research on the nuances of different traumatic events,” Bonanno says.
Last spring, a young man leapt from the building next to the one I was in. I didn’t see him jump, but I heard him land; I thought it was a clap of thunder. A woman I was interviewing in that moment gasped, so I turned and followed her gaze. I can still see the scene outside the window: an empty pair of pants dangling over the ledge of the low roof that had broken his fall, a human arm sticking out an unnatural angle. I heard the man moaning, and I saw a woman who appeared to be his mother crying in the street, reaching up to touch his foot. I didn’t know what to do; I felt useless as other members of the lab ran out with a ladder to help the woman reach her son.
That evening, I violated Amtrak’s noise policy by crying on the Quiet Car. I had violent nightmares: that a teenager was teetering on a ledge; that an acquaintance was threatening to jump in front of a train. I talked with friends about what I’d seen. I spent an afternoon trying to find out whether the man had lived. I gave up, the dreams faded, and I don’t think about it much anymore. The memory remains clear, upsetting even, but I wouldn’t call it traumatic.
Teresa Lopez-Castro, an assistant professor of psychology at City College of New York, emphasizes that most people who experience or witness trauma don’t go on to develop PTSD, even if—as I did—they experience distress in the weeks or month following the trauma. She pointed to a comprehensive 1995 study that found more than half of adults in the United States reported being exposed to a potentially traumatic event at some point in their lives, but only about 5 percent of men and 10 percent of women ultimately develop PTSD. Nonetheless, Lopez-Castro notes, “witnessing the violent death of a person—whether it be a stranger or a loved one—certainly carries the potential for causing psychological distress, and places the individual at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Bacon, the woman who witnessed the suicide in Toronto, always thought of herself as tough. She has traveled, mostly by herself, to 66 countries; she has been nipped in the ribs by a lion. But the day after seeing a stranger fall to his death, she walked around the city in a daze. “I thought every single person I passed was going to kill me,” she says, even though she recognized this as “a completely irrational fear.”
When she got home, she began combing through Toronto obituaries. She hoped that learning more about the stranger would help her process what she had seen, but she never definitively found the right person. She made her first-ever appointment with a psychologist. And she talked about it with whoever would listen. “There is not a single friend, client, colleague, 7-Eleven employee” who didn’t hear about it, she says. (Hatton—who’s now a clinical psychologist specializing in PTSD—says that sharing the experience is a “very important” part of recovery.)
Still, Bacon suffered from nightmares and night terrors for weeks. “I was kicking and tossing and turning so much I ripped the sheets off my bed, ” she says. She never used to lock her doors at night; now, more than a year later, she says she bolts both her front and bedroom doors.
The experience has changed how she relates to others and how she thinks about mental health. She started donating to suicide hotlines, and she’s become more proactive about reaching out to friends who are struggling. “If I see a negative post or even a drunk post on Facebook or Twitter, I don’t ask them if they need help,” she says. “I go to them.”
|01.10.18: attorney blog - Increase in Skyway Suicides Bring Awareness to Liability Issues|
01.10.18, usalaw.com, The Sunshine Skyway is one of the most impressive sights in Tampa Bay. Passing through the waters of Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Manatee counties, the bridge is 430 feet tall and spans four miles across. This makes it a perfect place to catch a stunning view of the breathtaking scenery and sparkling waters. Even Floridians who hate heights— and those who remember the horror of the original bridge’s collapse in 1980 - can probably admit that the bridge is part of our iconic landscape. At the very least, it is a convenient way to get across the bay.
But the Sunshine Skyway can also be a place of darkness. Last year, 13 people died by jumping off the bridge, making 2017 the worst year for bridge suicides since 2003. (worst year for jumper activity in general since the bridge opened.)
Suicide in Tampa Bay and Beyond
In 2017, twelve people committed suicide by jumping from the Sunshine Skyway. A thirteenth death is unconfirmed. The victims include a 64-year-old man, a 55-year-old husband, and a 28-year-old man, potentially racked with guilt over his involvement in a fatal crash. Only five of the deaths were women. This is on par with national statistics, which report that men are 3.57 times more likely than women to die by suicide.
Across the nation, suicide is a major issue. It is the 10th leading cause of death, with 44,965 Americans dying every year. It affects people of all ages, genders, and races. But certain groups, like middle aged white men, LGBT+ youth, and people struggling with substance abuse, are more prone to suicide.
Lawsuit over Sunshine Skyway Death
As these statistics show, Tampa Bay is far from the only place in the United States with a suicide issue. But in the face of this recent rash of suicides, some Tampa Bay residents want to see changes. One victim’s widow is even taking legal action to draw attention to the topic of suicide in Tampa Bay. Two days before her husband jumped from the Sunshine Skyway in 2017, he was released from a local hospital. He had been committed by the Baker Act after a previous suicide attempt. His wife is now suing the hospital. She believes that it was negligent to release him so quickly, considering his previous attempt and mental state.
This case is unique. However, it’s not the first time a medical provider has been accused in a patient’s suicide. In 2008, a lawsuit over a Florida woman’s suicide was brought to the Florida Supreme Court. There, it was found that her doctor’s failure to see her, even after being informed that the patient had stopped taking her medications, played a role in her death.
Determining a Doctor’s Role
Determining negligence for a patient’s suicide can be a nuanced topic. But like in any other case involving a medical provider’s liability, there must be proof that:
• A doctor-patient relationship existed
• The medical professional violated the standard of care
• The patient suffered harm
• The violation directly caused the patient’s harm
Suicide is often a complex topic, and never an easy one. When a case involves trying to hold someone else, like a medical provider, liable for a loved one’s suicide, it becomes even more complex, although it is still important to seek justice, compensation, and answers. While 2017 might have been a bad year for Tampa Bay area suicides from the Sunshine Skyway, there is still hope that critical topics, like the role of medical providers in a patient’s suicide, will be addressed in 2018.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or ideation or know someone who needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
(curious if a case could be made against an entity, that created a structure that is a known and accepted draw for suicides, then doing squat little in an attempt to stop them. #calltoaction more suicide prevention help.)
|01.09.18: Could netting prevent suicides on Sunshine Skyway Bridge?|
01.09.18, wfla.com, PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Two of America’s iconic bridges, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the George Washington Bridge in New York, are undergoing major changes.
Both projects include the addition of a unique netting to help prevent suicides. Safety netting is being added along the outer edges of both high-span bridges.
The changes have News Channel 8 wondering about the possibility of one day seeing safety netting added to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, where three (correction: 13) people ended their lives by suicide in 2017 and 12 others committed suicide in 2016, according to The Florida Highway Patrol.
If there were to be any structural changes to the Skyway, they’d come through Florida’s Department of Transportation.
So, we reached out to FDOT to ask about the possibility.
The organization quickly responded and we learned a safety net concept is something the agency has reviewed before. “The safety of the traveling public on the state’s bridges is a top priority of the Florida Department of Transportation. The department has looked at a fencing system on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in the past, however, FDOT has not found a system that would work and also allow inspection of the bridge.”
Adding more weight to each side of the bridge could possibly create instability for the mega structure.
One safety feature that’s helped save lives and has been in place for many years are the 24-hour emergency phones mounted at the top of each span.
Just by picking up one of those phones, that person will immediately be connected to a caring counselor at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. “If they’re having thoughts of suicide and they’re aware that a resource is available and they will not be judged and somebody will speak to them and care about them. It’s very successful,” says Ken Gibson with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. (if the suicidal uses the phone. most do not.)
If you, or anyone you know, is feeling desperate and just needs someone to talk to, simply dial 211. That will connect you to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay’s full time staff of sincere and compassionate counselors.
(this barrier would work. it hinges for inspections and deters jumpers. #calltoaction)
|01.08.18: Skyway suicides may have hit 15-year-high|
01.08.18, tbo.com/tampabay.com, By Jonathan Capriel, Times Staff Writer,
A few left their driver door open and motor running. One man pocketed his keys. Another wore a Superman T-shirt when he plunged nearly 200 feet into the mouth of Tampa Bay. One woman may have taken her dog with her. Another person wrote "sorry" and "time to go."
An average of once a month last year, people committed suicide by falling from the Sunshine Skyway bridge, and authorities are trying to determine whether a 13th person also died that way.
Not since 2003 have 13 people fallen to their deaths from the Skyway. In the years since then, at least 130 more followed, according to information provided by the Florida Highway Patrol and medical examiners offices in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties.
The last man to drop in 2017 was William Robeysek, 64, the morning after Thanksgiving, his family said. Troopers found his car on the bridge. A boater found his body on the first Sunday of December on an island about 5 miles west of there. Dental records showed it was him, but authorities await test results.
"I miss him terribly," said Ashley Stevens, 65, his girlfriend of 13 years. "I have no idea why he would leave me."
Robeysek was unmarried, had no children and was recently placed on disability benefits. He didn’t leave a note.
• • •
Most last year did not leave notes. Those who did left many questions unanswered.
The first to fall in 2017 died a year ago Friday. David Prior, then 55, worked as an investment adviser and had two children and a wife. Debra Prior, 53, said she and her teenage daughter suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and avoid the bridge.
Her husband left a note, but she still doesn’t know why he chose the Skyway.
"Maybe he thought it would be the fastest way to go," she said. "He used to jump out of planes in the army. He was a Green Beret Ranger."
Two days before he went off the Skyway, David Prior was released from St. Anthony’s Hospital, where he had been committed under the Baker Act after slitting his wrists, his wife said. She’s suing the hospital, alleging negligence.
Therapists have told Debra Prior not to attempt to figure out why he killed himself.
"We are never going to know what was in his mind," she said.
• • •
Most suicide is a solitary act, often by gunshot or strangulation, said Frederic Desmond, a professor of psychology at the University of Florida. Falling from a high platform is less common.
A public suicide attempt may be a last chance to reach out for human contact.
"It could also be a last-minute cry for help," he said. "They might hope that someone driving will stop them."
Clara Reynolds, CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, avoids publicly discussing Skyway suicides because she doesn’t want to plant ideas in anyone’s head.
"We want to have open conversations about why people contemplate suicide and we need it to be more socially acceptable for people to reach out," she said.
The center gets thousands of calls each year from people contemplating suicide. A small percentage of suicides are from the Skyway, less than 3 percent in 2016.
Special phones installed on the bridge in 1996 (correction: 1999) connect directly to the Crisis Center, but in 2017, only "silent calls" came through. The people on the bridge did not speak.
"They might be trying to make a last-minute connection with someone," Reynolds said. "It could be that they want someone to know they are up there."
When someone uses one of those phones, the center’s staff alerts authorities. Officers stop at least five suicide attempts each year on the bridge. On Tuesday, a Pinellas deputy used his vehicle to pin a woman’s leg to the side of the concrete barrier, preventing her from throwing herself over. After he handcuffed her, she continued to say, "Let me jump, let me jump," the deputy said.
Five of the deaths in 2017 were women.
• • •
Experts say suicide doesn’t solve problems, and often hurts those left behind.
In May, Pinellas Park police charged Ryan Mogensen in the hit-and-run death of a motorcyclist, 61-year-old John Ryan.
In June, Mogensen pleaded not guilty, but the case never went to trial.
On a dark night in July, he leaped off the Skyway bridge. He was 28.
The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office formally abandoned the case.
A medical examiner’s report describes a suicide note Mogensen posted on Facebook. He called himself a veteran and said he had been charged with a crime. He wrote that he loved his family and apologized to them.
When John Ryan’s wife, Rosamme Ryan, 54, found out that Mogensen had killed himself, she initially took solace in the idea that he could not hurt anyone else, she said. But in the months since police found his body, her attitude has shifted.
"That night, it felt like justice," she said. "But the further away I get from it, I realize I’m never going to face him. I can never ask him why he hit my husband."
• Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to be connected to local crisis counselors.
• Reach out to trusted friends or family members and talk to them.
• Find a therapist or support group. A good starting point is to call 2-1-1.
(more suicide help links and services. seek them out and use them.)
2017 was not simply a 15 year high, but an all-time high, considering all the jumper activity, as compared to 2003.
2017: 13 suicides, 29 possible, 1 survivor, 4 saves
2003: 13 suicides, 1 possible, 4 saves
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