I read the ebook version of this book as background research for the novel I wrote during National Novel Writing Month in November 2012. It’s an eye-opener, replacing suicide mythology with facts and figures. For example, many assert that there’s no point in putting up a barrier on a bridge because people will just find another way to kill themselves. But that’s not true, according to the research. People with suicide on the mind fixate on one method and if that method is blocked won’t use another. Another example: the people interviewed who had remarkably survived the jump from the Golden Gate Bridge didn’t try again — countering the idea that if thwarted, they will always try again.
I live in Toronto where the Prince Edward Viaduct (or as we commonly call it the Blood Viaduct) was the number two suicide bridge, after the Golden Gate Bridge. I have also seen the Golden Gate bridge up close and from afar. They are both beautiful bridges with incredible views that shouldn’t be blocked. But unlike San Franciscans, Torontonians prevailed in having the luminous veil installed, deciding lives were important enough to protect while one did not have to completely kill the view and could have an architecturally excellent barrier. The fight to install the veil was considerably shorter than the ongoing one to install something similar on the Golden Gate Bridge, which fight Bateson details with stats and human stories. I thought a lot about the stories that surrounded the Viaduct and the luminous veil as I read Bateson’s book. However, the numbers and his propensity for a little-too-much repetition of his theme that a suicide barrier must be installed became a bit overwhelming. Yet the reader is left wondering why on earth there isn’t one installed yet.
Overall, this was a useful read for my background research, but not as comprehensive as November of the Soul, given its focus on the Golden Gate Bridge. Both authors though agreed on facts as far as I could see where their books overlapped.