The Taft Bridge on Connecticut Avenue NW in 2020. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

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.

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Help for those in crisis
If you or someone you know needs help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988. You can also reach a crisis counselor by messaging the Crisis Text Line at 741741. Disaster survivors can also reach out to the disaster distress helpline at 800-985-5990.
To support someone going through a mentally tough time: Offer a safe space to talk and listen. Validate and affirm their feelings. Don’t engage in toxic positivity. Don’t be pushy with advice. Ask how you can help.
In recent years, depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation have reached historic highs, especially among children and teens. Experts say urgent reforms are needed for America’s underfunded, fragmented and difficult-to-access mental health system.


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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