Two recent articles spoke emotionally to the need to build lifesaving anti-suicide barriers on the Taft and Chesapeake Bay bridges. Each made vague reference to data supporting the effectiveness of fencing on D.C.’s Duke Ellington Bridge. As the lead author of that study, I can attest to the effectiveness of these anti-suicide barriers.
In more than three decades since the Ellington fences were erected, suicide fatalities from the bridge declined 96 percent. Correspondingly, and as opposed to commonly held beliefs, individuals thwarted from jumping off the Ellington Bridge did not subsequently find an alternative means to take their lives. Suicides did not increase on the adjacent Taft Bridge, the city’s other bridges or by any and all other methods in the years since these fences went up.
Help for those in crisis
As of 2018, the Ellington Bridge fencing has prevented the deaths of some 116 would-be suicides from this site alone. Amortized, the $229,000 cost of this prevention effort equates to less than $2,000 per life saved, a cost that is declining daily. This compares with the average cost to society of a suicide at $1.33 million. To those who argue that thwarting access to a lethal jump site is a waste of money, D.C.’s experiment resoundingly counter-argues with data, “Not true.”
More important is that the barriers save the emotional toll of suicide on family and friends, so tragically presented in these articles.
Lanny Berman, Chevy Chase