Why build suicide nets?

Fr. Joseph Illo puzzles over California's decision to spend $220 million on suicide prevention while simultaneously legalizing assisted suicide

(H/T: AP Photo/The San Francisco Chronicle, John Storey)

Yesterday I was riding across the Golden Gate Bridge with a friend. “They’ve begun building the suicide net,” I said, pointing over the left side of the roadway. We stopped our bikes to have a look. Amazingly, an entire superstructure had appeared beneath the bridge, suspended 230 feet above the Bay. After decades of debate, the City and County of San Francisco finally decided to build a steel-wire net under the bridge at a cost of $220 million. It is hoped that the net will save forty lives a year, which is about how many unfortunate souls hurl themselves over the bridge’s 4-foot railing annually. My parish boundaries include the southern half of the bridge, the San Francisco side, from which a person every ten days, on average, jumps to his or her death. Every First Friday we offer an afternoon Mass for their souls.

Eyeing the construction project, my cycling partner observed: how ironic that California decided to spend $200 million on suicide prevention in the same year it legalized suicide. How illogical, actually. Is suicide a good thing or a bad thing? Have we declared it a human right or is it still a crime?

$220 million to save forty lives a year is not unreasonable, but if we ordered our lives together better we would not need to build nets around our public monuments. It would be far better, far less expensive, and far more beautiful to spend our energies building a culture that encourages life rather than death. If every movie has to glamorize violent death, and death is the solution to unexpected pregnancies, and death by one’s own hand is celebrated (as media elites did with Brittany Maynard), then why build suicide nets? If we are in love with death, we will find other ways to kill ourselves.

There is a better way. You don’t have to believe in Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life to see in His beatitudes a solution to life’s problems. The solution is never death, but deeper life. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom. Blessed are those who weep, for they shall laugh.” Every jumper that survives says that suicide is a mistake. There is far more good in life than bad. Maybe the suicide net will give people a second chance. But it would be far better to help people before they reach that level of despair.

Full story at Father Illo’s blog.

Comments

  1. would an eight foot railing, with appropriate barriers to deter climbing over, be more effective and cheaper?

    • Anonymous says

      Yes, just like at the border.

    • Missed the point mike m?…it’s the irony of the thing…but in the end, it isn’t ironic at all. It isn’t about the principle of the sanctity of life. It’s about improving optics…Suicide may not make the State of California uncomfortable but it makes the rest of us feel icky, and that isn’t what the politicians in the Bay Area have in mind when visitors and locals look at the GG bridge. It is cheap virtue signaling and iconic image preservation.

    • Anonymous says

      I don’t think a barrier will stop everyone who wants to kill themselves. Very sad! Why not police the bridge a little more, and be on the lookout for potential victims of suicide– and take them immediately to get help?? We also could have a volunteer community patrol, a “Suicide Watch.” All urban bridges, it seems, have potential suicide victims. Our modern culture has destroyed our traditional home and family, neighborhoods, and communities– with many problems and stresses! — and is extremely dehumanizing, alienating, and lacking in religion and morality! Such conditions create depression, hopelessness, and potential suicides!

  2. Joel Fago says

    California is a conflicted state.

  3. Anonymous says

    A very strong, caring, prayerful, Hospice-type outreach ministry in the Church– could help suffering, depressed people, who desire the evil doctor-assisted suicide Rx– to change their minds, and live through their remaining days, in peace, surrounded by love and care– similar to the work of St. Mother Teresa’s nuns. Life is precious! God has a meaning and purpose for all life! God has meaning and purpose for a patient, in their deepest suffering — and has him or her in His loving embrace! A powerful Christian influence, could completely overturn the current, evil doctor-assisted suicide laws!

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