Blog Master G

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Suicide Documentary

Thursday, January 20th, 2005 · 4 Comments

Over the past couple days, I’ve noticed a significant spike in my site traffic — up from about 500 average visitors per day to 673 average visitors per day as of this moment. The culprit? Searches like this one:

Eric Steel Golden Gate Bridge

… which bring up my blog entry from October 14, 2003, Golden Gate Bridge Jumpers, as the number 1 result.

Why this entry and why all the hub-bub?

This entry because Eric Steel commented on it on December 27, 2004, wanting to contact others who left comments on my blog.

All the hub-bub because it seems that Mr. Steel has been making a documentary about folks who commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

SF Gate / Golden Gate officials angry with filmmaker who recorded suicides:

The film project was proposed as a “monuments documentary” intended to “capture the grandeur” of the Golden Gate Bridge.

But after a year, filmmaker Eric Steel ended up with footage of 19 deaths and several attempts by people who wanted to end their lives by jumping off what is regarded as the world’s No. 1 suicide landmark.

Bridge officials who approved the filming are now furious at Steel, saying he lied about his project. They are looking for ways to see the footage and possibly prevent him from showing it.

Grim? Yes. Tragic? Maybe.

Though suicide is something that stems from deep psychological troubles, I think it is an incredibly selfish and cowardly act and one that should be dealt with on one’s own. Jumping off a bridge is a fine way to go if one must kill oneself. Much better than, say, driving a car into oncoming traffic or doing something else that puts others at risk. I just hope that someone jumping off the bridge doesn’t land on a passing boat below and kill someone else in the process.

As for capturing these suicides on film, sure, it’s grim. But why not examine what causes people to go to this extreme? Why not shed some light on the act rather than pretending it doesn’t happen? It sounds like Mr. Steel’s intentions are just this, so I hope his documentary does screen at a major festival, as he hopes it well.

This country tends to be so repressed and uptight in terms of discussing problems in the open, so I say more power to you, Eric Steel. Good luck with your documentary.

Tags: the world

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 jean // Jan 21, 2005 at 5:10 pm

    I read your “Update 1.20.2005: Golden Gate officials angry with filmmaker who recorded suicides” with much interest. I found your site while searching for Eric Steel’s email address so that I could communicate with him. We lost our daughter off that bridge. Thank god it was not during 2004. It is not true that even ‘most’ people who are stopped from completing suicide go on to kill themselves some other way. Of course my family & friends are most interested in seeing effective suicide prevention on that bridge. Until suicide brushes up very close, most people simply cannot fathom it. (Surely, they are the ones who do not wish to see preventive action taken on the bridge.) Like you they think it a “selfish and cowardly act.” It seems that way until you know someone well who completes suicide. Suicidal thought is a form of mental illness; once it enters & takes over a mind, nothing else seems real. It is simply all pervading. And, I think, not really a “choice” at all. Often suicide is preceded by some kind of loss that cannot be gotten over. Perhaps it’s loss of tranquility (which we refer to as depression & anxiety) or loss of innocence & sense of self because of some abuse or trauma, or some less hidden loss such as the loss of a loved one through suicide. Rarely, I think, does one realize how many other lives are touched by our own life, and consequently our death. My daughter’s death touched hundreds of people. We expected perhaps 50-75 attendees at her memorial service, the church seated 250, all seats were filled; people were seated in all the folding chairs, they were standing along the walls. We are not a prominent family & our daughter’s death was not covered by any news media. I would urge any person who is contemplating suicide to try to reach out & find solace some other way.

  • 2 Gabe A_nderson // Jan 21, 2005 at 6:00 pm

    Jean- Thank you for writing. I’m very sorry for the loss of your daughter, and I thank you for sharing your experience with me. I hope I didn’t sound too callous in my comments about suicide, in calling it a selfish act; that was certainly not my intent.

    I definitely understand that it’s a psychological state that leads one to such extremes. And I think it’s good that Eric Steel is doing something to shed some light on what may lead individuals to take their own lives. I hope you’re able to connect with him.

    Having never known anyone who’s committed suicide, you’re right that I cannot relate. I’m sure it would strike a chord much closer to home if that were the case. Again, thank you for reaching out to me.

  • 3 Matt // Jan 24, 2005 at 9:22 pm

    From the cryptic news reports, I gather (somewhat) that Mr. Steel has good intentions in making this film, although I have questioned the ethics of filming a suicide rather than trying to help. (I would be interested to know whether the camera crew made any calls to bridge patrols when they spotted people who looked like potential jumpers.)

    I do not think that suicide is always the result of mental illness (or that it is in itself a mental illness) or that it is cowardly, etc. I doubt that suicide is “always” anything, and it would be nice to see a documentary which depicts the act of suicide in all its indeterminacy, both as a concept (for suicide is undertaken for myriad reasons) and as a “solution” to “unsolvable” problems in life. We tend to settle on oversimplified explanations and oversimplified judgments of suicide, which do not acknowledge the scores of reasons and circumstances which precipitate this final act.

  • 4 Christina // Feb 2, 2005 at 6:45 am

    I commented on your last story of Golden Gate Bridge jumpers. My brother jumped off the bridge in 2004 while this taping was going on. I am so torn on what to feel about this. On one hand, if it could help someone to not jump or to learn about suicide and its impact, then I am all for having this documentary out there. The one thing I am unsure of, is why footage of the people actually jumping is necessary. I think if Eric Steel can get permission from the families of the jumpers, not the city, then he has every right to show it in his documentary. But, without their permission there will be too many people hurt. They have already had to endure their loved ones suicide already. They had to grieve and process information that at times seems impossible. I know I pictured it in my mind a million times, wondering what it must have looked like. But then to have that moment, that last final moment of my brothers life in someone’s movie, without my or my parents consent, almost feels like reliving it all over again. While I support his movie, and his freedom of speech, I do feel he needs to take into account the feelings of those left behind. If he spent so much time with survivors, he should understand that.