A leap of faith

Suicide is rarely an easy topic to discuss but it is, as they say, a fact of life so it’s pointless to pretend otherwise.

The issue comes to mind because the city government where I live – Brisbane, Australia – is about to enact anti-suicide measures on a major bridge that crosses the Brisbane River right into the heart of the central business district.

There have been many suicides by leapers from the bridge over the years but given the media usually withhold coverage to prevent copycat deaths, it is hard to estimate how frequently these events occur.

The cycle of silence was thoroughly shattered due to two recent suicides in which an apparently stable parent leaped to their death, taking a child with them: in one case a mother with a 14 year-old daughter and in the other a father with a two-year-old son.

The tragedy of these events can hardly be amplified. But is the response appropriate?

For example, the bridge has pedestrian walkways either side of the roadway and the city council has decided to fully enclose them in a steel cage which, while it might be decorative, will still detract from the original visual amenity of the structure.

This initiative will cost up to $9 million but, still, the engineering consultants have warned that it will be impossible to guarantee all suicides from the bridge could be prevented.

The issue can be looked at from the perspective of what price do you put on a life.  There is no meaningful answer to that.

Yet, taxpayers have a right to ask whether their hard-earned contributions are being spent wisely. If that portrays me as a callous creature, so be it.

The point surely is: can any amount of money be spent to prevent determined people from committing suicide? If they are unable to use Brisbane’s Story Bridge, there are plenty of others. And, if not bridges, there are untold other ways of achieving their goal.

It is worthy of note that the distress caused to emergency services personnel is terrible. Even so, the phenomenon of suicide cannot be eliminated from our society so why expend major sums trying to achieve the impossible?

Frankly, it sounds more like a sop to ease the consciences of our city leaders than any sensible attempt to achieve substantive change.

And, for the record, I still mourn a beloved sister who took her own life.