I always believed San Francisco was socially ahead of many other metropolises because of its citizens’ ability to learn to understand and accept each other. This is due to an effort to obtain accurate information and becoming aware of situations or lifestyles, and well, refusing to be pushed back into a closet, away from Life itself, literally in some cases.
So is there a topic that is SO sensitive that it still cannot be openly discussed?
Oddly enough – there is: Suicide – the crisis of mental health.
Mental illness, with chronic (long term) or acute (short-term) issues, affects 1 in 4 adults and 1 in 10 children and adolescents, caused by a brain dysfunction or disease. One would think this would be a major topic of discussion.
The major obstacle with the discussion of mental health and suicide is the stigma associated with them. The stigma is what prevents so many people from, discussing how they are feeling, their level of despair or even believing they cannot seek treatment without whispers or ridicule.
How can we discuss sexual orientation, gay marriage and impotence on radio and television but not about depression so severe and so painful that a person feels death is their only option?
How can we discuss a president having oral sex with an intern on the radio and television but not about schizophrenia or bipolar disorders, how those are treated and how the families are affected?
How can we discuss Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder when it involves our active service members or veterans but openly deride the PTSD suffered by the families and friends of a suicide victim?
When it comes to suicides at the Golden Gate Bridge, the families, who are trying to heal, suffer flashbacks, experiencing their loss over and over again every time another victim succumbs to suicide at the Golden Gate Straits. Just as veterans and service members relive the ordeals they have experienced, their wound is rended again and again.
San Franciscans normally stand up and deter abuse towards groups of people or even their surrounding environment. Yet many San Franciscans have chosen to ignore or even disparage the victims (“ better to put in a diving board”) and thereby create the most inhuman environment for individuals with mental disorders and diseases, at a time when assistance is needed the most – during a crisis; the Crisis of Suicide.
Oh Yes, San Franciscans, you do. It is so easy to ignore the situation (if it was Embarcadero One, would you allow it to continue?), your acceptance of over 30 people every year dying at one location, and simply by not getting informed.
In talking with people, I am amazed at how little is actually known, so I have to ask, “What do you know about San Francisco and Golden Gate Bridge suicides?”
Between 1996 and 2006, what was the major means of suicide in San Francisco (you must include the Golden Gate Bridge – it is in Rep. Pelosi’s district!)?
Jumping from heights
What percentages of those were from the Golden Gate Bridge?
During this time period, jumping from heights in San Francisco accounted for what percentage of ALL California suicides by jumping from heights?
33% (1/3 !)
During this time period, jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge (GGB) alone accounted for what percentage of ALL California suicides by jumping from heights?
20% (An amazing 1/5! )
What is the lethality of GGB attempts?
98% (98 out of 100 will die)
What is the average lethality of all other methods combined in San Francisco in this time period?
47% (47 out of 100 will die)
What percentage of those who died from this site had a diagnosed mental illness or disorder?
More than 60%
What disorder was the most diagnosed?
Depression at 34%
Mental illness is due to a brain dysfunction, disorder or disease. Just as any other organ in the body can have a disease or disorder leading to death, such as a heart attack, kidney failure or a diabetic coma, the crisis of a brain dysfunction can be death by suicide.
Yet there it cowers… “Suicide” …in the back of a closet in San Francisco, too stigmatized to even ‘come out’.
San Francisco, now is time to open the door.