By Nina Kalirai
A recent study has shown that the barrier that was put in place at the Bloor Street Viaduct bridge, has served its purpose in reducing suicides. The bridge was the second most used bridge for suicide in North America 11 years ago, before the barrier was put in place.
The statistic put the bridge right behind San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
According to researchers, an average of 9 people a year had died by jumping from the bridge before 2003. After the barrier was put in place, only 1 person had died by suicide after jumping off the 485 metre overpass that spans a multi-lane highway, ravine, as well as another major roadway.
A report that looked at data from 2007 suggested that these suicide rates may have simply relocated to other nearby bridges, but the latest research shows that rates across the city dropped over the long term, since the barrier went up.
Dr. Mark Sinyor of Sunnybrook Hospital said :
"The barrier did have its intended effect. There was a decrease in deaths by jumping from bridges in Toronto by roughly the same number as the number that had previously been dying at the Bloor Viaduct, without an increase by other methods or locations.”
Sinyor also said that similar results have been found at Edmonton’s High Level Bridge, where both the number of suicides and general mental health calls were cut in half, after barriers were put into place in 2015.
However, researchers are now attributing the findings of the study to heavy media coverage in local print news outlets of deaths at the Bloor Viaduct. They are also attributing the findings of the study to the debate as to whether or not the barrier was worthwhile.
This correlation between the findings was implied due to the slight increase in the number of general suicides within days or months of such coverage, according to Sinyor.
With annual suicides in Toronto dropping from 257 to 234 after the 11-year time period of the barrier going up on the Bloor Viaduct, Sinyor also credits increased mental health support, more open discussion around the stigma of mental health, and heightened media sensitivity to these issues, in bringing down this number.