suicide jumper articlesjumper media mentions, 2018 on.
links could be broken at any time. (our comments follow)
|01.13.19: opinion - Editorial: Revisiting safety on the Sunshine Skyway.|
A record number of suicides last year prompts the state to wisely review security options on the bridge.
The grim statistics speak for themselves: Eighteen people jumped to their deaths from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge last year, a record number that surpassed the previous high of 13 set in 2003 and again in 2017. The rise coincides with a steady increase in the suicide rate across the United States and Florida, and the Florida Department of Transportation deserves credit for revisiting how to deter suicide attempts from the iconic bridge.
The state is acting responsibly by looking to better secure public assets under its control. As the Tampa Bay Times' Tony Marrero reported, DOT had for years rejected calls to install netting or fencing to discourage jumping from the bridge. But this month, a department spokeswoman said officials are studying vertical barriers that could be installed along the bridge walls to deter suicide attempts. In addition, the department is about to install new technology that will detect pedestrians and stopped cars in an effort to alert authorities more quickly to a potential jumper.
The Skyway, which connects Pinellas and Manatee counties, has attracted people intent on taking their lives since the 1960s, (since 11.11.57) when earlier versions of the bridge spanned Tampa Bay. But records show suicides began to accelerate when the current bridge, with its cables forming twin triangles visible for miles, opened in 1987. At its highest point, the bridge deck reaches nearly 200 feet. Since the current bridge opened, 236 people, or an average of about eight people each year, have killed themselves by jumping, Florida Highway Patrol records show, making it one of the deadliest bridges in the country. Overall activity on the bridge — suicides, saves and reports of possible jumpers — has generally trended upward, especially in the last decade.
The DOT has fielded calls for nets or fencing on the Skyway for decades. One department study conducted about 20 years ago cited a number of concerns, suggesting that netting could fling jumpers back onto bridge traffic, impede the use of bridge maintenance equipment and ensnare trash and wildlife. Vertical barriers such as a fence are another option. As recently as last month, the department said it had not found a fencing system that would accommodate the truck–mounted arms that extend under the Skyway to inspect the bridge. But in a new email, spokeswoman Kris Carson said the department is concerned about suicides and is researching new barrier technology.
This is a welcome decision - and one that could save lives. The review could take a year, and in the interim, the department will install devices to detect pedestrians and stopped vehicles, which could speed the response times by authorities to the bridge. Some protective measures are in place already; in 1999, the state installed call boxes that instantly connect with a local crisis center hotline. A state trooper patrols the bridge 24/7, further speeding response times. Officials credit both measures with having saved lives.
Fencing and other technologies may be a precaution of last resort, but they could create those few critical moments that mean the difference between life and death. The DOT deserves credit for addressing a terrible reality on the bridge and a trend line that cries out for the broadest response possible. (#calltoaction)
01.04.19: As record year ends,
Florida studying suicide prevention barriers for Sunshine Skyway bridge.
01.04.19, tampabay.com, by Tony Marrero,
The Department of Transportation also plans to install new technology to detect people who may be intent on jumping. The toll for 2018 - 18 dead.
The text from Rob Rivard’s stepson came at 5:23 one Sunday morning in November.
A 20-year-old student at Pasco-Hernando State College, Chris Machesney was excited about launching a modeling career. Rivard and his wife hadn’t seen signs that Machesney was unhappy, but when Rivard read the text that morning, he knew it was meant to be a final goodbye.
Rivard frantically called his stepson’s cell phone but never got an answer. He would learn later that a police officer had been alerted to a car parked at the top of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and pulled up to Machesney’s Toyota Camry at 5:34 a.m.
By then, the young man was already gone. “Within eight minutes of him texting me, he jumped,” Rivard said.
Machesney was one of 18 people to die by suicide from the Skyway last year, a record number that surpassed the previous high mark of 13 set in 2003 and tied in 2017, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. A 19th person who jumped last year survived the fall.
For years, the Florida Department of Transportation has rejected calls to install netting or fencing to deter jumpers from the iconic bridge. But this week, a department spokeswoman said officials are studying vertical barriers that could be installed along the bridge walls to deter suicide attempts.
In addition, the department is about to install new technology that will detect pedestrians and stopped cars to more quickly alert authorities to a potential jumper.
That’s encouraging news for Rivard, who has been lobbying the state to take measures that might have saved his stepson.
“At that moment in their lives, they’ve made a decision,” Rivard said. “You’ve got to make it hard for them so first responders can get there.”
• • •
The Skyway has attracted people set on taking their own lives since the 1960s, when previous versions of the bridge spanned Tampa Bay. Records show suicide there began to accelerate when the current bridge, with its cables forming twin triangles visible for miles, opened in 1987.
At its highest point, the bridge deck soars to nearly 200 feet.
Since the current bridge opened, 236 people, or an average of about eight people each year, have killed themselves by jumping from the Skyway, Highway Patrol records show, making it one of the deadliest bridges in the country.
Overall activity on the bridge — the number of suicides, saves and reports of possible jumpers — has generally trended upward, especially in the last decade. In 2018, at least nine people who appeared to be ready to jump were stopped before they could, records show.
At the nation’s deadliest bridge for suicides, San Francisco’s Golden Gate, workers began installing a stainless steel net last summer. The Florida Department of Transportation has fielded calls for similar nets or fencing on the Skyway for decades.
In a Transportation Department study conducted about 20 years ago, a number of concerns were raised about netting — that it might fling jumpers back onto the bridge and into traffic, ensnare trash and wildlife, impede equipment used to inspect the bridge, and mar the bridge’s iconic appearance.
Another option is some kind of vertical barrier, such as a fence. As recently as last month, the Transportation Department said it had not found a fencing system that would accommodate the truck-mounted extended arms used to reach under the bridge for a complete inspection.
But the department is very concerned about suicides from the bridge and is in the process of researching new barrier technology, spokeswoman Kris Carson said in an email this week.
“The department is re-examining all options to see if any technological advances have occurred including the feasibility of a vertical barrier to be placed on the outside wall,” Carson said.
The research involves structural analysis, an environmental study and coordination with the State Historic Preservation Office. The office must grant its approval to ensure any additional structures are compatible with the bridge’s iconic design. The process could take more than a year, Carson said. (this!)
Meantime, the department will soon put in place “pedestrian and stopped vehicle detectors,” she said, that should reduce response time by authorities when motorists park on the bridge.
Carson did not have additional details Friday.
After his stepson’s death, Rivard contacted the Transportation Department about installing fencing or netting. He then called the office of Gov. Rick Scott and a representative got back to him the next day, saying Scott got his message.
Rivard was soon on a conference call with transportation officials who told him that they were looking into a vertical barrier and that new infrared cameras, monitored around the clock to detect possible jumpers, should be up by this summer.
“I hope they do what they say they’re going to do,” said Rivard, who lives in New Tampa with wife Martiza Machesney, Chris’ mother. “I’m not going away. I’ll be patient now, but I’m not going to be lip-serviced. I just want something done.”
• • •
Some measures in place on the Skyway have saved lives already.
In 1999, the state installed six crisis hotline call boxes that connect with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay as soon as someone picks one up. A special ring tone in the call center alerts operators that a call is coming from the bridge, said Liza Cruz Cepeda, manager of gateway services at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
The center received a small number of calls last year, but in at least one, an operator was able to prevent the caller from jumping, she said.
A state trooper also patrols the bridge 24 hours a day, seven days a week for a quick response to potential suicide attempts, and troopers have been able to stop people from killing themselves, said Sgt. Steve Gaskins, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol. But Gaskins noted it can take several minutes to respond even if a call comes as soon as someone stops on the bridge.
“If someone really wants to do this, it takes two seconds to stop and jump,” he said. That point was reinforced by the case of a 43-year-old Safety Harbor housekeeper who drove to Skyway Bridge one night last month.
The woman had considered suicide before and had made statements that night that concerned her father, according to a Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s report. The father followed his daughter to the center span of the Skyway, where she got out of her car and jumped, the report says, apparently before the father had time to try to stop her.
He called 911 and her body was found in the water below.
The rise in suicides from the Skyway corresponds with a steady increase in the suicide rate across the United States and Florida.
According to a report released last summer by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the suicide rate rose by 30 percent between 1999 and 2016, with increases seen across age, gender, race and ethnicity. Florida saw an increase of nearly 11 percent during that period.
The study noted that problems most frequently associated with suicide are life stressors involving work, finances, strained relationships, substance abuse and health issues. Mental health professionals and sociologists have cited the Great Recession, with its widespread layoffs and home foreclosures, as a factor in the increase.
The Tampa Bay Times obtained medical examiner reports for 15 of the 18 people who are confirmed to have died by suicide at the Skway in 2018. They ranged in age from 18 to 67. Thirteen were men. At least half had a history of mental illness, depression, or both, the records show. Nearly all lived in or near the Tampa Bay area.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention recommends installing barriers on tall bridges and buildings to discourage jumpers, said Dr. Andreas Pumariega, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine, who has studied suicide.
News that the Transportation Department is installing technology beyond the callboxes is encouraging, Pumariega said.
“You can’t rely on the person changing their mind or making a call,” he said. “You should be looking to catch them in the act in some manner.”
For Rivard, working to see this happen serves as a kind of therapy in the wake of his son’s death.
“This is something you never heal from, you just have to find a way to cope,” he said. “My coping is addressing the problem to start saving other people’s lives.”
If you’re considering suicide or suspect someone you know might be, help is available by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255. (more help resources • #calltoaction)
|12.10.18: FDOT won’t add netting to prevent suicides on the skyway.|
MANATEE COUNTY, FL (WWSB) - In between the thousand of cars that drive the four mile stretch of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge daily, at least one dozen people have jumped from the top in 2018.
20-year-old Chris Machesney of Tampa died on November 18 around 5:30 a.m. as a result of jumping from the bridge. His father, Robert Rivards, is demanding answers and change.
“You hear about the Skyway Bridge, but until it actually affects you, you don’t really start looking into things,” said Rivards.
Following the suicide, ABC7 reached out to the Florida Department of Transportation, which operates the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. A spokesperson said engineers considered adding netting or fencing in the 1990′s, but were left with too many question marks. A fence would prevent officials from using the proper equipment to inspect the bridge. There would be issues with aerodynamics because of wind and height. Birds could get trapped and the netting could push a jumper back into traffic during a failed attempt.
Despite the limitations, FDOT said a Florida Highway Patrol trooper is always monitoring the bridge, hoping to deter people from jumping. There’s cameras on both sides of the bridge and six phones which connect to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. When a person picks up that phone, the Crisis Center automatically deploys a FHP trooper. Unfortunately, according to the crisis center, only a handful of people pick up those phones annually.
“Between those two efforts, we can save somebody if they grab that phone,” said Clara Reynolds, CEO and President of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.
If you are in distress with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. (3 videos with article.)
12.11.18, wtsp.com, Why hasn't FDOT added netting to prevent suicides on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge? Precautions are being taken on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, but advocates for netting want to see more done.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- There's another push to add netting to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to prevent people from jumping off.
At least a dozen a dozen people have jumped from the top so far this year.
One of them was Chris Machesney.
The 20-year-old Tampa man died in the early morning on Nov. 18. Now, his father tells our news partners at WWSB he wants changes made.
10News has been following similar stories for years.
In 2017, with construction underway on safety nets under the Golden Gate Bridge, 10News Reporter Liz Crawford asked the Florida Department of Transportation if the Sunshine Skyway Bridge could install similar safety measures to stop suicides.
Previous: Suicide and the dark side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.
At the time, the department told us it had looked at a fencing system but didn't find one that would work while also allowing bridge inspections to continue as needed.
"It’s important to note the Golden Gate Bridge has a different deck structure than the Sunshine Skyway Bridge," FDOT told 10News. "The Golden Gate Bridge can be inspected by workers below the roadway surface, since the surface is supported by an open steel deck truss. The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is a closed segmental box, and relies on inspection trucks with arms that reach out and under the bridge for a complete inspection. If a fence were to be installed, it could potentially block access for bridge inspection."
Recently, our news partners at WWSB followed up with FDOT and got three more pieces of the puzzle.
FDOT told the news station that in addition to the inspection issues, a fence would create aerodynamics problems due to wind and height, birds might become trapped in the net, and the netting might actually push a jumper back into traffic during a failed attempt.
However, precautions are being taken.
A Florida Highway Patrol trooper is constantly assigned to monitor the bridge to try to prevent jumping. Plus, there are cameras and a handful of public phones that connect people in need to operators with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. A trooper is automatically dispatched if a call is placed, although WWSB found only a few people pick up those phones each year.
"Each person who calls us has somebody in their life who cares about them," Mordecai Dixon, a program manager at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, told 10News last year.
If you are struggling, there is help.
You can call the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay by dialing 2-1-1.
You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.
Sean Michael Davis' film 'Skyway Down'.
|05.25.18: How a Public Suicide Harms the People Who See It|
05.25.18, theatlantic.com, For unwitting bystanders, the experience can be traumatic.
One evening last March, Nancy Bacon saw a stranger die. She had just touched down in Toronto and set off for a business meeting, chatting on her phone as she navigated the rush-hour traffic of the financial district. She was jaywalking, hurrying across a particularly busy street, when a fire extinguisher seemed to fall from the sky, smashing to the ground just a few feet away from her.
“I was actually annoyed,” she says. Her first thought was that some mischievous kid had thrown the extinguisher through a window high above. But when she lifted her gaze, Bacon’s annoyance turned to horror. What she witnessed next would haunt her for months. “I saw the guy falling,” she says. “I saw him hit the ground.”
Bacon looked on as the police arrived and attempted CPR. She noticed that the man’s shoe had come off.
A suicide can be dangerous to those closest to the victim, leaving family and friends vulnerable to depression and self-harm. When the act is committed in public, any incidental observers are left to grapple with it, too. While studies on witnessing strangers’ suicide are scarce, a small body of research—alongside a larger body of anecdotes—has begun to show that the experience can be damaging, even traumatic.
Each year in the United States, approximately 45,000 people kill themselves. There’s little data on how many of these suicides occur in public view, and even less on how many people witness them when they do. One study analyzed all completed suicides in Riverside County, California, from 1998 to 2001, and estimated that around 17 percent took place in public places, like roads, railways, and fields. Another study, from 1994, reviewed forensic reports of 1,183 suicides among people affiliated with the U.S. Air Force and found that 4 percent were committed in the presence of at least one other person.
Ashley Tate Hatton was studying for her Ph.D. at the California School of Professional Psychology when she saw the controversial documentary The Bridge, about people who leap from San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Watching the victims fall—even on camera—Hatton felt queasy, complicit. When it came time to choose a subject for her dissertation, she decided to study the effects of witnessing suicide in real life. She posted ads around campus and online, and to her surprise, soon found a small group of people who had seen strangers take (or attempt to take) their own lives.
“I thought it was a long shot,” she says. She hadn’t realized how common an experience it was. “I didn’t have to travel outside of Southern California—I was prepared for that.”
Three of Hatton’s subjects had seen people jump from bridges, three from a building; two had seen people shoot themselves; three had seen people step in front of vehicles. One of the subjects, a man in his 50s, was waiting for a bus when a young man threw himself in the path of an oncoming van. For the next several days, the onlooker thought about it constantly. He became obsessed with the precariousness of life, and told Hatton that he began to feel as though “every second could be [his] last.” When she met him three years later, she found that he no longer ruminated incessantly about the memory, but he still dreamed about it from time to time. He told her he had become a more cautious driver; he worried about running someone over.
All but one of Hatton’s subjects said that they considered the experience traumatic, and one, according to Hatton, met the criteria for chronic post-traumatic stress disorder. (Those who had been more involved—who had called 911 or tried to talk the victim down from the ledge—tended to be more affected.) Nine of the 10 said that pictures about the event popped into their minds; six admitted they thought about it without meaning to; three had physical reactions when they were reminded of the event, including sweating, nausea, and trouble breathing. Eight said that the experience had a significant impact on their lives, including one who started volunteering at the Red Cross, and two who resolved not to act on their own suicidal fantasies.
Hatton’s sample was small, and people who would sign up for her study were probably more shaken than average. “When you have only a few people who experienced something, you have no idea how representative they are,” points out George Bonanno, a professor of clinical psychology and the director of the Loss, Trauma, and Emotion Lab at Columbia University. Still, projects like Hatton’s are a start. “There’s surprisingly little research on the nuances of different traumatic events,” Bonanno says.
Last spring, a young man leapt from the building next to the one I was in. I didn’t see him jump, but I heard him land; I thought it was a clap of thunder. A woman I was interviewing in that moment gasped, so I turned and followed her gaze. I can still see the scene outside the window: an empty pair of pants dangling over the ledge of the low roof that had broken his fall, a human arm sticking out an unnatural angle. I heard the man moaning, and I saw a woman who appeared to be his mother crying in the street, reaching up to touch his foot. I didn’t know what to do; I felt useless as other members of the lab ran out with a ladder to help the woman reach her son.
That evening, I violated Amtrak’s noise policy by crying on the Quiet Car. I had violent nightmares: that a teenager was teetering on a ledge; that an acquaintance was threatening to jump in front of a train. I talked with friends about what I’d seen. I spent an afternoon trying to find out whether the man had lived. I gave up, the dreams faded, and I don’t think about it much anymore. The memory remains clear, upsetting even, but I wouldn’t call it traumatic.
Teresa Lopez-Castro, an assistant professor of psychology at City College of New York, emphasizes that most people who experience or witness trauma don’t go on to develop PTSD, even if—as I did—they experience distress in the weeks or month following the trauma. She pointed to a comprehensive 1995 study that found more than half of adults in the United States reported being exposed to a potentially traumatic event at some point in their lives, but only about 5 percent of men and 10 percent of women ultimately develop PTSD. Nonetheless, Lopez-Castro notes, “witnessing the violent death of a person—whether it be a stranger or a loved one—certainly carries the potential for causing psychological distress, and places the individual at risk for developing post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Bacon, the woman who witnessed the suicide in Toronto, always thought of herself as tough. She has traveled, mostly by herself, to 66 countries; she has been nipped in the ribs by a lion. But the day after seeing a stranger fall to his death, she walked around the city in a daze. “I thought every single person I passed was going to kill me,” she says, even though she recognized this as “a completely irrational fear.”
When she got home, she began combing through Toronto obituaries. She hoped that learning more about the stranger would help her process what she had seen, but she never definitively found the right person. She made her first-ever appointment with a psychologist. And she talked about it with whoever would listen. “There is not a single friend, client, colleague, 7-Eleven employee” who didn’t hear about it, she says. (Hatton—who’s now a clinical psychologist specializing in PTSD—says that sharing the experience is a “very important” part of recovery.)
Still, Bacon suffered from nightmares and night terrors for weeks. “I was kicking and tossing and turning so much I ripped the sheets off my bed, ” she says. She never used to lock her doors at night; now, more than a year later, she says she bolts both her front and bedroom doors.
The experience has changed how she relates to others and how she thinks about mental health. She started donating to suicide hotlines, and she’s become more proactive about reaching out to friends who are struggling. “If I see a negative post or even a drunk post on Facebook or Twitter, I don’t ask them if they need help,” she says. “I go to them.”
|01.10.18: attorney blog - Increase in Skyway Suicides Bring Awareness to Liability Issues|
01.10.18, usalaw.com, The Sunshine Skyway is one of the most impressive sights in Tampa Bay. Passing through the waters of Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Manatee counties, the bridge is 430 feet tall and spans four miles across. This makes it a perfect place to catch a stunning view of the breathtaking scenery and sparkling waters. Even Floridians who hate heights— and those who remember the horror of the original bridge’s collapse in 1980 - can probably admit that the bridge is part of our iconic landscape. At the very least, it is a convenient way to get across the bay.
But the Sunshine Skyway can also be a place of darkness. Last year, 13 people died by jumping off the bridge, making 2017 the worst year for bridge suicides since 2003. (worst year for jumper activity in general since the bridge opened.)
Suicide in Tampa Bay and Beyond
In 2017, twelve people committed suicide by jumping from the Sunshine Skyway. A thirteenth death is unconfirmed. The victims include a 64-year-old man, a 55-year-old husband, and a 28-year-old man, potentially racked with guilt over his involvement in a fatal crash. Only five of the deaths were women. This is on par with national statistics, which report that men are 3.57 times more likely than women to die by suicide.
Across the nation, suicide is a major issue. It is the 10th leading cause of death, with 44,965 Americans dying every year. It affects people of all ages, genders, and races. But certain groups, like middle aged white men, LGBT+ youth, and people struggling with substance abuse, are more prone to suicide.
Lawsuit over Sunshine Skyway Death
As these statistics show, Tampa Bay is far from the only place in the United States with a suicide issue. But in the face of this recent rash of suicides, some Tampa Bay residents want to see changes. One victim’s widow is even taking legal action to draw attention to the topic of suicide in Tampa Bay. Two days before her husband jumped from the Sunshine Skyway in 2017, he was released from a local hospital. He had been committed by the Baker Act after a previous suicide attempt. His wife is now suing the hospital. She believes that it was negligent to release him so quickly, considering his previous attempt and mental state.
This case is unique. However, it’s not the first time a medical provider has been accused in a patient’s suicide. In 2008, a lawsuit over a Florida woman’s suicide was brought to the Florida Supreme Court. There, it was found that her doctor’s failure to see her, even after being informed that the patient had stopped taking her medications, played a role in her death.
Determining a Doctor’s Role
Determining negligence for a patient’s suicide can be a nuanced topic. But like in any other case involving a medical provider’s liability, there must be proof that:
• A doctor-patient relationship existed
• The medical professional violated the standard of care
• The patient suffered harm
• The violation directly caused the patient’s harm
Suicide is often a complex topic, and never an easy one. When a case involves trying to hold someone else, like a medical provider, liable for a loved one’s suicide, it becomes even more complex, although it is still important to seek justice, compensation, and answers. While 2017 might have been a bad year for Tampa Bay area suicides from the Sunshine Skyway, there is still hope that critical topics, like the role of medical providers in a patient’s suicide, will be addressed in 2018.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or ideation or know someone who needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
(curious if a case could be made against an entity, that created a structure that is a known and accepted draw for suicides, then doing squat little in an attempt to stop them. #calltoaction more suicide prevention help.)
|01.09.18: Could netting prevent suicides on Sunshine Skyway Bridge?|
01.09.18, wfla.com, PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Two of America’s iconic bridges, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the George Washington Bridge in New York, are undergoing major changes.
Both projects include the addition of a unique netting to help prevent suicides. Safety netting is being added along the outer edges of both high-span bridges.
The changes have News Channel 8 wondering about the possibility of one day seeing safety netting added to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, where three (correction: 13) people ended their lives by suicide in 2017 and 12 others committed suicide in 2016, according to The Florida Highway Patrol.
If there were to be any structural changes to the Skyway, they’d come through Florida’s Department of Transportation.
So, we reached out to FDOT to ask about the possibility.
The organization quickly responded and we learned a safety net concept is something the agency has reviewed before. “The safety of the traveling public on the state’s bridges is a top priority of the Florida Department of Transportation. The department has looked at a fencing system on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in the past, however, FDOT has not found a system that would work and also allow inspection of the bridge.”
Adding more weight to each side of the bridge could possibly create instability for the mega structure.
One safety feature that’s helped save lives and has been in place for many years are the 24-hour emergency phones mounted at the top of each span.
Just by picking up one of those phones, that person will immediately be connected to a caring counselor at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. “If they’re having thoughts of suicide and they’re aware that a resource is available and they will not be judged and somebody will speak to them and care about them. It’s very successful,” says Ken Gibson with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay. (if the suicidal uses the phone. most do not.)
If you, or anyone you know, is feeling desperate and just needs someone to talk to, simply dial 211. That will connect you to the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay’s full time staff of sincere and compassionate counselors.
(this barrier would work. it hinges for inspections and deters jumpers. #calltoaction)
|01.08.18: Skyway suicides may have hit 15-year-high|
01.08.18, tbo.com/tampabay.com, By Jonathan Capriel, Times Staff Writer,
A few left their driver door open and motor running. One man pocketed his keys. Another wore a Superman T-shirt when he plunged nearly 200 feet into the mouth of Tampa Bay. One woman may have taken her dog with her. Another person wrote "sorry" and "time to go."
An average of once a month last year, people committed suicide by falling from the Sunshine Skyway bridge, and authorities are trying to determine whether a 13th person also died that way.
Not since 2003 have 13 people fallen to their deaths from the Skyway. In the years since then, at least 130 more followed, according to information provided by the Florida Highway Patrol and medical examiners offices in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Manatee counties.
The last man to drop in 2017 was William Robeysek, 64, the morning after Thanksgiving, his family said. Troopers found his car on the bridge. A boater found his body on the first Sunday of December on an island about 5 miles west of there. Dental records showed it was him, but authorities await test results.
"I miss him terribly," said Ashley Stevens, 65, his girlfriend of 13 years. "I have no idea why he would leave me."
Robeysek was unmarried, had no children and was recently placed on disability benefits. He didn’t leave a note.
• • •
Most last year did not leave notes. Those who did left many questions unanswered.
The first to fall in 2017 died a year ago Friday. David Prior, then 55, worked as an investment adviser and had two children and a wife. Debra Prior, 53, said she and her teenage daughter suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and avoid the bridge.
Her husband left a note, but she still doesn’t know why he chose the Skyway.
"Maybe he thought it would be the fastest way to go," she said. "He used to jump out of planes in the army. He was a Green Beret Ranger."
Two days before he went off the Skyway, David Prior was released from St. Anthony’s Hospital, where he had been committed under the Baker Act after slitting his wrists, his wife said. She’s suing the hospital, alleging negligence.
Therapists have told Debra Prior not to attempt to figure out why he killed himself.
"We are never going to know what was in his mind," she said.
• • •
Most suicide is a solitary act, often by gunshot or strangulation, said Frederic Desmond, a professor of psychology at the University of Florida. Falling from a high platform is less common.
A public suicide attempt may be a last chance to reach out for human contact.
"It could also be a last-minute cry for help," he said. "They might hope that someone driving will stop them."
Clara Reynolds, CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay, avoids publicly discussing Skyway suicides because she doesn’t want to plant ideas in anyone’s head.
"We want to have open conversations about why people contemplate suicide and we need it to be more socially acceptable for people to reach out," she said.
The center gets thousands of calls each year from people contemplating suicide. A small percentage of suicides are from the Skyway, less than 3 percent in 2016.
Special phones installed on the bridge in 1996 (correction: 1999) connect directly to the Crisis Center, but in 2017, only "silent calls" came through. The people on the bridge did not speak.
"They might be trying to make a last-minute connection with someone," Reynolds said. "It could be that they want someone to know they are up there."
When someone uses one of those phones, the center’s staff alerts authorities. Officers stop at least five suicide attempts each year on the bridge. On Tuesday, a Pinellas deputy used his vehicle to pin a woman’s leg to the side of the concrete barrier, preventing her from throwing herself over. After he handcuffed her, she continued to say, "Let me jump, let me jump," the deputy said.
Five of the deaths in 2017 were women.
• • •
Experts say suicide doesn’t solve problems, and often hurts those left behind.
In May, Pinellas Park police charged Ryan Mogensen in the hit-and-run death of a motorcyclist, 61-year-old John Ryan.
In June, Mogensen pleaded not guilty, but the case never went to trial.
On a dark night in July, he leaped off the Skyway bridge. He was 28.
The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office formally abandoned the case.
A medical examiner’s report describes a suicide note Mogensen posted on Facebook. He called himself a veteran and said he had been charged with a crime. He wrote that he loved his family and apologized to them.
When John Ryan’s wife, Rosamme Ryan, 54, found out that Mogensen had killed himself, she initially took solace in the idea that he could not hurt anyone else, she said. But in the months since police found his body, her attitude has shifted.
"That night, it felt like justice," she said. "But the further away I get from it, I realize I’m never going to face him. I can never ask him why he hit my husband."
• Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 to be connected to local crisis counselors.
• Reach out to trusted friends or family members and talk to them.
• Find a therapist or support group. A good starting point is to call 2-1-1.
(more suicide help links and services. seek them out and use them.)
2017 was not simply a 15 year high, but an all-time high, considering all the jumper activity, as compared to 2003.
2017: 13 suicides, 29 possible, 1 survivor, 4 saves
2003: 13 suicides, 1 possible, 4 saves
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