My name is Rhonda Haiston and I am a native San Diegan and Registered Nurse. In November of 2014, I founded a community group I called, Coronado San Diego Bridge Collaborative for Suicide Prevention. It’s now made up of thousands of concerned citizens from the San Diego region and beyond. I was compelled to create this group because of the suicides that take place here. The Coronado San Diego Bay Bridge connects downtown San Diego and the city of Coronado. It’s a beautiful and iconic structure which spans 2.1 miles and at its highest point, 215 feet from the concrete decks surface to the San Diego Bay below. Since it opened for traffic in 1969, 49 years ago, there have been more than 400 suicides that have occurred from its ledges, which only stand 36″ in height. About once a week the bridge is closed due to a potential jumper, often happening so fast that closure isn’t necessary. At all hours of the day and night and every day of the week… Last year, 2016, there were 17 people that took their own lives there . And in just the first quarter of this year, 2017, there have been five.
This year in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge began construction on a 200 million dollar suicide barrier project that will install steel netting below its deck to combat the over 1,600 deaths they have experienced at that location. Once this project is completed, the San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge will earn the title of having the highest bridge suicide rates in the nation. The evidence and the research tell us that removal of access to a lethal method of suicide has proven to be, by far, the most effective way to prevent suicide… Here in San Diego, historically, the news media rarely reported about the bridge suicides for fear it would provoke more of the same- Copy Cat Suicides, and there is verified data to support this concern. It is my strong suspicion that this under reporting is one of the main reasons that nothing has been done about the problem for 49 years. Call boxes can not be added on the bridge because it is all lanes of traffic, in each direction. Even though pedestrians are prohibited from walking along the entire span, nothing prevents a motorist from stopping at the top and jumping right off.
Of all of the survivors and family members of victims of the bridge I have spoken with, I hear different stories, but they all eerily resemble the others. I never forget their names and faces or the amount of grief that is palpable within all of them, even with the passing of time. As a byproduct, community members who use the bridge frequently also become victims. A few months ago, a thirteen year old girl had to witness someone jump while stopped in traffic with her mom, trying to get home after school. Dozens and dozens of witnesses have come forward, and in fact to date, there are more than 200 which compelled me to create a support group for them to help each other and gain resources. Since I began this journey, I have also had the chance to speak to some wise and wonderful leaders and decision makers in our community, and last April, I was finally able to convince the California State Senate to fund the money to start a formal study to investigate the options to prevent this from happening anymore. The feasibility study is currently underway and Caltrans will be holding an open public forum on November 14, 2017 at the Coronado Community Center to inform the public of types of barriers being considered and potential costs that will be associated with each one. Financing this project will be costly, there is no doubt about that. Suicide rates in this country are at an all time high.. Every 15 minutes, someone dies by suicide in America. As humans, I feel we are morally obligated to care about this issue. Life is the most precious thing we have and put simply can not be assigned a tangible amount of worth.
For more information please visit Coronado Bridge. Author: Rhonda Haiston, Founder, CoronadoBridge.Net / Coronado San Diego Bridge Collaborative for Suicide Prevention 11/6/17