Suicide is a topic that, for various reasons, very few people feel like approaching or discussing.
Perhaps that hesitation comes from the harsh reminder of reality that acts of suicide force us all to recognize – that life is fragile and can be here one minute, and gone the next. Perhaps it is because nobody seems to be immune to the kind of darkness that leads to a suicide. The rich, the powerful, the seemingly jubilant – all have had members of their ranks take their own lives throughout the years.
For others, discussing suicide touches fresh wounds or aggravates deep scars. How many among us know someone personally, or someone through a friend, who has been lost too soon because of it? Anyone with personal experience on the subject knows that a suicide doesn’t just affect one person – it causes a dramatic ripple effect that can impact thousands of individuals who knew that person.
This is precisely why talking about suicide is incredibly important, no matter how uncomfortable it may make us. And this is why we applaud the efforts of Rep. Joseph Solomon Jr. to bring this important subject front and center through his introduced legislation in the House (2020-H 7366), which aims to construct anti-suicide implements on the three large bridges that span our state’s southern island communities by January 2022. There will be a hearing on that bill Tuesday, Feb. 25 at the State House.
We wish it were difficult to imagine there being any opposition to such an altruistic legislative attempt – especially one born from a legitimate place of concern and personal experience as Rep. Solomon draws inspiration from on this issue. He had a friend take his own life recently when he seized a momentary opportunity to jump from one of the bridges – which currently have no means to reasonably prevent someone from doing so.
Unfortunately, such an issue will likely come down to the kind of legislative hand wringing that ultimately stops many other noble attempts at helping people. How much money will it cost? Will it affect views from the bridge? What impetus is there for this in the first place? These questions, and more, will likely be raised throughout the process of debating the bill.
Regretfully, we have also read opinions in our online comment section on the article that recently ran on Solomon’s initiative that essentially amount to this: “If somebody wants to kill themselves, why waste tax dollars on trying to stop them?”
It is a grotesque point of view, in our opinion. One so lacking in empathy and compassion that, were it muttered from a child’s lips, we would hope the parents would immediately step in and scold them, lest they be satisfied with raising an aspirational sociopath. We can’t prevent every suicide, but to not take easily achievable measures to prevent as many as possible – and provide an opportunity for that person to receive help and treatment and potentially recover from their darkness – is a failing both of morality and common sense.
It is hard to pinpoint exactly how widespread the issue of suicide is in Rhode Island. Solomon has cited a number from DOT that 29 in the past six years have taken their own lives by jumping from one of the three bridges, while 37 more have attempted it in that same span. If even one of those could have been prevented by simply removing the ease of which it could be achieved, then the legislation is worth the cost.
Rep. Solomon has taken the first, most crucial step in trying to address an issue that is important to him – and to the thousands of others currently going through a battle with suicidal thoughts or the loved ones of somebody doing so – simply by raising the issue and dragging it into the public arena. It is now on the others, experts from DOT, nonprofits and other legislators, to get something meaningful done.
Those who are going through suicidal thoughts often think that they have no hope, that they have nobody who cares if they live or die, or that they’re actually doing the world a favor by ceasing to exist. Legislative measures like this one will help show that these people are not forgotten, nor are they considered not worth the effort of trying to help.
If you know someone who is suffering from suicidal thoughts or tendencies, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24/7. To reach the Crisis Text Line, text “CONNECT” to 741741. The Samaritans of Rhode Island also offer various resources for those who feel suicidal. Call their 24/7 crisis hotline at 401-272-4044.