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Here are some statistics about death in San Diego County over the last several years:

  • 2006

    Accidental deaths: 1161

    Homicides: 152

    Suicides: 313 (27 by jumping)

  • 2005

    Accidental deaths: 1092

    Homicides: 129

    Suicides: 317 (25 by jumping)

  • 2004

    Accidental deaths: 1084

    Homicides: 150

    Suicides: 314 (23 by jumping)

  • 2003

    Accidental deaths: 1014

    Homicides: 161

    Suicides: 329 (23 by jumping)

  • 2002

    Accidental deaths: 990

    Homicides: 102

    Suicides 325 (19 by jumping)

It’s remarkable how consistent these numbers are. Each year, about 320 people in the county kill themselves. Even the number who kill themselves by jumping (off bridges, buildings, overpasses, cliffs) is about the same each year.

(The statistics, by the way, come from the county medical examiner’s office; 2007 stats weren’t available. Full reports with a lot more numbers are on the office’s website.)

And where does the Coronado Bridge fit in? From 2002-2007, the number of suicide deaths ranged from one to nine. It’s hard to read much into those numbers, but one of the highest death tolls — 11 — came in 1993, on the heels of tough economic times in 1992.

And the highest death toll ever — 16 — was in 1980, a very bad time for the country economically. Perhaps there’s a connection.

♦♦♦

Reader Marie writes:

I liked your articles very much and discussed them with friends and family. It seems that many of us believe that if a person wants to commit suicide, perhaps they should be able to. Since there aren’t currently any legal ways to commit suicide, folks have to go to extreme measures to do so. At least jumping from the Coronado Bridge is not hurting other people. Except in the case where the police intervened and a police dog was killed. This opens up the whole other issue of how we view suicide in this country. Are you willing to tackle that issue next?

Thanks for the kind words.

I’m not sure that jumping from the bridge is harmless to others. I didn’t get a chance to explore this in the stories, but there are many people other than family and friends who are affected by bridge suicides. Think of those who witness the suicides — motorists, cops, people on sailboats, even Navy sailors on ships. It’s horribly traumatic.

And don’t forget the Harbor Police who must pull the dead out of the bay. As for tackling the larger issue of a right to suicide, I would need a way to personalize it.

Reader Thomas writes:

I doubt that the City of San Diego’s willingness to erect fences on several of its freeway overpasses could be mimicked on the Coronado Bay Bridge since the Board of San Diego Port Commissioners would have to vote on the matter. Look at the Port’s current preoccupation with soliciting bids for its new public art project to illuminate the Coronado Bay Bridge. The Port has budgeted 2 to 3 million dollars for this future display of lights!!! I’d say these funds could go to making both a functional and artistic barrier that San Diego could be proud of.

Well, there is a port commissioner who has a great interest in mental-health issues and whose own brother survived a fall from the bridge.

Finally, reader J.R. writes:

Recently, the Pacific News Service had a piece on a cleric who regularly walks the SF Bay Bridge on his own time, at his own direction, in an effort to help those intending suicide. It seems to be good work; the gentleman has saved a few lives. One hopes a few of the local clerics might follow their colleague’s example here. But besides that, the issue of barriers on bridges may be a feel-good idea that substitutes for effective outreach to the distraught. Like lifeguards at the beaches, spending money to save lives is money well spent. The same ought to apply to suicide prevention here, too.

Involving the clergy is an interesting idea, but logistically it might be difficult.

— RANDY DOTINGA

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