PORTLAND, Ore. — The Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most recognizable bridges in the world. But it also has a dark reputation as a place where many people come to end their lives.
Now a Portland company is working to change that.
Vigor Industrial is best known for building and repairing massive ships but its latest project is meant specifically to save lives.
It's a suicide deterrent system being constructed inside Vigor's Clackamas warehouse.
It is not a fence or any kind of barrier. In fact, once installed, this system will barely be noticeable.
"For the most part these devices this net system will not be visible from the roadway, people really won't notice it," said marketing Vice President Thomas Hickman. "But it will do its job and do it very, very well."
The net system is going in about 20 feet below the bottom deck of the bridge.
About a quarter of the system is already in place. The rest is still being built.
It's made out of stainless steel and will eventually span the entire length of the nearly 9,000-foot bridge.
And most important, it will be impossible to jump over.
"Statistics show that once these systems are in place the attempts pretty much stop," explained Hickman.
It's a project David Westbrook, with the suicide prevention nonprofit group Lines for Life, believes works.
"There's good research that when you prevent someone from dying in one spot or by one method that those individuals never go on to die by suicide and that's partly because it’s such an impetuous act," said Westbrook.
The group believes a similar system could be installed on the Vista Bridge in Southwest Portland.
Up until about five years ago, the historic bridge averaged two suicide attempts a year.
But when a fence was installed, the suicide attempts stopped.
However, the fencing was meant as a temporary solution and some neighbors would like a more-attractive permanent solution.
The folks at Vigor believe that can be done.
"Can the engineers come in and design something that could be aesthetically a little more appealing? I certainly hope so," said Hickman. "I certainly believe they can and we'd be here to help them do that."
And it can be done at a much lower cost.
The Golden Gate Bridge project has a price tag of over $200 million.
But again, that's a nearly 9,000 foot long bridge. By comparison, the Vista Bridge is less than 250 feet long.
Help is available for community members struggling from a mental health crisis or suicidal thoughts. Suicide is preventable.
The Multnomah County Mental Health Call Center is available 24 hours a day at 503-988-4888.
If you or someone you know needs help with suicidal thoughts or is otherwise in an immediate mental health crisis, please visit Cascadia or call 503-963-2575. Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare has an urgent walk-in clinic, open from 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m., 7 days a week. Payment is not necessary.
Lines for Life is also available 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Information about the Portland Police Bureau's Behavioral Health Unit (BHU) and additional resources can be found by visiting http://portlandoregon.gov/police/bhu