In a remarkable move confirming the Tappan Zee bridge in New York is a perfect suicide machine — over the last decade more than 25 people have leapt 138 feet in the air to find death in the Hudson River below — the New York State Thruway Authority installed “suicide prevention phones” on each side of the bridge.
The 3-mile-long Governor Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge, which opened in 1955, has no walkway. Would-be suicides tend to drive to midspan, stop their cars in an outside lane, scale the barrier and jump, said Ramesh Mehta, the Thruway’s regional director. The four phones — two each on the Rockland and Westchester county sides — provide direct links to the Lifeline suicide prevention hot line, which would connect callers to counselors at LifeNet or Covenant House, the authority said Tuesday.
State troopers stationed in Tarrytown would be sent to the phones. Gary Spielmann, a consultant to the state Bridge Authority, said, “Many individuals who attempt to jump from bridges are deeply ambivalent about dying, and the placement of phones on bridges is a way of reaching those individuals and reassuring them that life is worth living.” “The human voice and presence,” he added, “is the best way of connecting these individuals to the services available.”
Are those suicide phones truly preventative or do they only deter those who are already open to the idea of not ending their lives? Are cellphones not just as simple a deterrent as dedicated “suicide phones?” Is there any dangerous humiliation in being watched as you place a public call on a suicide phone attached to a bridge serving 150,000 cars a day across seven lanes?